Minister of State for the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Rt. Honourable Hugo Swire currently making his first visit to the Falklands reiterated on Wednesday his previously expressed opinion that the attitude of the present Argentine government towards the Islands denies to the people of Argentina an opportunity for economic growth as well as denying the fundamental right of self-determination to the population of the Islands.
At a meeting with local media in Stanley, the Minister said that in his view, after the overwhelming affirmation by the people of the Islands in the recent referendum that they wished to remain a British Overseas Territory, the sovereignty situation was settled and that now Argentina should try to be a good neighbour and give up their recent various attempts to intimidate Islanders and hinder the economic development of the country.
The threatened cancellation of the LAN flight, the obstructive measures put in place against the fishing industry and threats to companies involved in the search for hydrocarbons were all “wholly counter-productive.” What was required, said the Minister was a totally new approach which would bring prosperity not only to the Islands, but also to Argentina.
Far from being intimidated by Argentine threats of legal action against them, the Minister said that he hoped significant finds of petroleum in the waters around the Falkland Islands would attract involvement from companies around the world with appropriate expertise, including those from Argentina. The attempts by one country to prevent others from getting involved would not be successful.
When asked whether he foresaw anything which might bring about the desired future dialogue with Argentina, the Minister replied: ”Yes I do; it’s called a presidential election in Argentina.”
Although he did not expect much change in the rhetoric when a new president had been elected, the hope was that any incoming president would realise that the policies carried out by the present government in Argentina had been counterproductive and had not achieved anything.
Looking towards the future, part of the prospect for the much-needed economic recovery of Argentina could involve cooperation with its neighbours in the Falkland Islands, but that would require the recognition of the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands and of the existence of commercial opportunities in the Islands.
The Minster’s brief stay in the Falklands has included talks with the members of the Islands Legislative Assembly as well as with the military at the Mount Pleasant air base. On Tuesday evening, Mr Swire was present at a reception held in Government House for a visiting group of Uruguayan parliamentarians, whom he congratulated on their decision to visit the Islands and learn something of its realities first hand.
Mr Swire earlier in the week met with Falklands elected members of the Legislative Assembly, government officials and representatives from the private sector. He was also able to visit Volunteer Point to see the magnificent King penguins in their natural habitat.
The minister also visited the Argentine and British cemeteries to pay his respect to all those who lost their lives in the conflict.
John Fowler - Stanley