Argentina’s sovereignty claim over the Falklands/Malvinas Islands continues to generate discrepancies among countries of the Americas, as was exposed in the Declaration of Punta del Este, at the end of the X Conference of Defence Ministers of the Americas which took place in Uruguay.
“The Malvinas issue is still very controversial for the Americas” admitted on Wednesday Uruguay’s Minister of Defence Eleuterio Fernandez Huidobro pro-tempore president and host of the event.
The Falklands/Malvinas issue and a peace zone in the South Atlantic, despite not being part of the official agenda of the meeting, was addressed by an ad hoc committee that held ‘long discussions’ during the four day meeting in an attempt to bring closer the different positions.
Nevertheless Argentina managed to include two articles in the final declaration on the issue, although 15 of the 34 countries from the Americas expressed some “degree of safeguard or reserve”.
All members agreed to subscribe Article 19 of the Declaration which points out that “in the framework of the peaceful character of the Americas continent nations, they express their willingness to promote peace and cooperation in the South Atlantic”.
This was followed by “recognition” of the “importance” of this year’s OAS AG/Dec70 declaration which “decided to continue examining the Malvinas Islands issue until its definitive solution, underlining that this is an issue of standing hemispheric interest”.
Regarding this text Argentina, Bolivia, Brasil, Ecuador, Guyana, Nicaragua, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela expressed “concern” over the “growing militarization” of the South Atlantic and exercises which include “firing missiles” as the ones taking place in the Malvinas Islands.
They also reiterated their “strong support” for the “legitimate rights” of Argentina in the sovereignty dispute over the Islands and the surrounding maritime spaces.
Chile, Colombia and Mexico coincided in the “support” to Argentine sovereignty claims over the Malvinas but with no reference to the “militarization of the South Atlantic” which is attributed to the UK.
The US pointed out that the Falklands/Malvinas issue does not correspond to the Defence ministers of the Americas forum, and Canada openly dissented with the inclusion of the paragraph arguing that it is a “bilateral issue” and underlined that the “population of the Falkland Islands have the right to determine their own future”.
The Declaration of Punta del Este also referred to the member-countries ‘conviction’ that democratic institutions are the “fundamental pillars” to achieve peace, security, social equality and development in the hemisphere countries.
They also pointed out the importance of cooperation in defence and security issues “to address the new challenges” and their support to measures that strengthen institutional capacities together with the commitment to update the inter-American defence system.
The need to modernize the Inter-American Reciprocal Assistance Treaty, (TIAR) going back to 1947 as well as the Inter-American Defence Board (JID), were the two issues of “ongoing strong debate” and with visions “quite distant” according to sources at the discussions.
In the final declaration the two visions were reflected in the request to the OAS Permanent Council ‘to program and advance”, with the participation of Defence ministries, of meetings “to discuss the future of the mission and functions” of the Inter-American defence system including the JID.
Ministers also pledged “to expand the dissemination process” of international humanitarian Law and human rights through “doctrine, training and education”, whatever the case, among the Armed and Security forces.
Finally the delegates of the 28 participants out of 34 country members voted for Peru to take over the pro tempore presidency of the eleventh defence ministers conference to be held in that country in 2014.