A statement released earlier this afternoon from the Falkland Islands Government regarding the UN announcement of the extension of the Argentine continental shelf states that the announcement makes “no adjudication on the sovereignty of the Falkland Island and has no implications for the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands”.
The Falkland Islands Government (FIG) released a statement earlier this afternoon confirming that they are aware of the recent announcements made by the Government of Argentina concerning the recommendations adopted by the United Nation’s Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS), but state the CLCS announcement makes “no adjudication on the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands and has no implications for the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands or our right to develop our territorial waters”.
FIG added that the recent statements made by the United Nations (UN) do not change the political situation in the Falklands and that “Argentine statements which suggest that the sovereign position in the Falkland Islands has changed as a result of this decision are wholly misleading”. Many media reports have suggested that the UN announcement confirms that the Falkland Islands is situated in Argentine waters; however, this has been absolutely dismissed by FIG.
The UN announced on Monday that the CLCS had adopted a recommendation submitted by Argentina to extend their maritime territory in the South Atlantic Ocean by 35%. The Commission’s recommendation follows a report submitted by Argentina in 2009 during Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s government, which fixed Argentina’s territory up to 350 miles from its coast. While the recommendations submitted by Argentina were adopted, the Commission clarified that it was not in a position to “consider or qualify” any areas of the submission that “were subject to dispute” (i.e. the Falkland Islands) and those parts which related to Antarctica.
FIG had sought reassurances from the United Kingdom after the UN announcement was initially made on Monday, with Mike Summers, Chairman of the Legislative Assembly in the Falklands, earlier stating that FIG’s understanding had “always been that the UN would not make any determination on applications for continental shelf extension in areas where there are competing claims.
An official spokeswoman for UK Prime Minister David Cameron stated earlier today that any recommendations from the commission were “advisory” and were “not legally binding”. They also added that “speculation” over what the commission report says had come from Argentina, and not the UN itself, and full details of the report had yet to be received or confirmed by the UK government.
The Argentine Foreign Minister, Susana Malcorra, speaking on Monday heralded the announcement as “a historic occasion for Argentina” and that it reaffirms our sovereignty rights over the resources of our continental shelf.” The Argentine Foreign Ministry confirmed that their maritime territory could be expanded by 1.7 million square kilometres (0.66 million square miles) and would be crucial in solving the dispute over the Falkland Islands. Nevertheless, Deputy Foreign Minister, Carlos Foradori reiterated that Argentina would not act unilaterally in its dispute with the UK, but hailed the Commission’s decision as a diplomatic victory and the result of work by multiple governments, which initially began during the presidency of Carlos Menem.
The UN announcement could have impacts on both fisheries and mineral sources, namely oil and gas deposits, around the Falklands. Speaking to local press yesterday, Director of Natural Resources in the Falklands, John Barton, said that “any extensions of continental shelf areas are more relevant to mineral resources” and would have limited application to “mobile marine living resources such as squid”. Stephen Luxton, Direct of Mineral Resources in the Falklands stated the announcement had “no effect” on oil development and it was “business as usual”. However, the effects of this UN announcement are already being felt by British oil companies with interests in the Falklands, with share prices in both Premier Oil PLC and Rockhopper Exploration PLC falling by more than 7%.
UN law stipulates that countries have a sovereign right over their continental shelves, up to 200 nautical miles from their shorelines. Furthermore, they can apply to extend this boundary up to a radius of 350 nautical miles from their coastlines, only if they can prove that the area is a natural continuation of their landmass.