Martin Ezequiel Dinatale, a member of Argentine news agency Infobae staff, sent Falklands' lawmaker MLA Roger Spinks a questionnaire on current and future relations between the peoples of Argentina and the Falklands, particularly since the announced latest agreement for a second commercial air link this time between the Islands and Brazil with a stopover at Cordoba, second largest Argentine city.
Questions, and replies from MLA Spink follow:
Do you believe that the new flights will serve to bring the peoples of Argentina and the Islands closer?
Set against the invasion and occupation of the Islands in 1982 and the sanctions and aggressive actions of the Kirchner Government since then there is plenty of scope to improve the relationship.The flights agreement is part of the Joint Communique signed in September 2016 which undertook “to set up a dialogue to improve cooperation on South Atlantic issues of mutual interest. Both governments agreed that the formula on sovereignty in paragraph 2 of the Joint Statement of 19 October 1989 applies to this Joint Communique and to its consequences. In this context it was agreed to take the appropriate measures to remove all obstacles limiting the economic growth and sustainable development of the Falkland Islands, including in trade, fishing, shipping and hydrocarbons. Both parties emphasised the benefits of cooperation and positive engagement for all concerned.
In accordance with the principles set out in the 14 July 1999 Joint Statement and Exchange of Letters, both sides agreed that further air links between the Falkland Islands and third countries would be established. In this context they agreed the establishment of 2 additional stops per month in mainland Argentina, one in each direction. The specific details will be defined.
Both delegations expressed their full support for a DNA identification process in respect of unknown Argentine soldiers buried in the Darwin cemetery. Discussions on this sensitive humanitarian issue will be taken forward in Geneva on the basis of an International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) assessment supplemented by bilateral discussions as required. Both sides agreed that the wishes of the families concerned were paramount.”
All of these steps should serve to reduce the ill feeling between our peoples however progress in some areas has been slower than we would have wished.
Is it possible for you to make a proposal to share projects with Argentina in the area of fishing or oil?
There has already been an exchange of fisheries data and there will be joint scientific cruises later in the year conservation of fish stocks and the environment in the South Atlantic is of benefit to everyone living in this area so there is scope for further joint work.
Do you see in the government of president Macri a hostile position towards the islanders?
Argentina has exercised a series of economic sanctions against the people of the Falkland Islands.
The stated intention of these sanctions, confirmed in public time and again by Argentine Ministers, was to undermine the economy of the Falkland Islands. That means, to try to make our agriculture, hydrocarbons, fishing and tourism industries less successful. To prevent the peaceful development of our economy, make Falkland Islanders poorer; to subjugate and control the people of the Falkland Islands through economic pressure, by preventing free trade and free access to neighbouring states. The intention seemed to us to be economic colonialism. The less hostile position by the Macri government is welcomed although having suffered an invasion and years of such sanctions it will take time to rebuild trust.
Is the British military presence on the Islands necessary at a time when there is no armed conflict with Argentina?
Yes the British military presence is welcomed in the Islands. Many in our population were badly traumatised by the invasion in 1982 the British military presence serves to reassure them that they have the right to choose the way they are governed, the referendum on political status was held in the Falkland Islands in March 2013 and overwhelmingly supported our right to remain as a British overseas territory.
Are you afraid of losing the support of Britain in the wake of brexit?
No. We have a great deal of cross party support in the UK. We do however consider it important to inform people in Britain of the issues and wishes of the people of the Falklands. We work closely with the British Government in many areas.
Do you believe that Argentina should eliminate sanctions to companies that trade with you? What harm have these measures caused?
Yes punishment of a civilian population through sanctions has been counterproductive. Lifting the sanctions is part of the 2016 communique, the sanctions have not had the effect that was expected and have caused animosity towards Argentina in the Falklands.
Would you be willing to hold a meeting with the Argentine government to arrive at some solution to the dispute over the Islands?
Whilst the Argentine constitution states “The recovery of these territories and the full exercise of sovereignty, respecting the way of life for its inhabitants and according to the principles of international law, constitute a permanent and unwavering goal of the Argentine people.” There is little point in having a meeting as our views are so diametrically opposed.
What are the needs that most suffer and that Argentina could help?
If Argentina started to behave as a good neighbour rather than a greedy colonial power it would help to provide some comfort to those civilians traumatised by the invasion in 1982 and by their actions since then.
Do you believe that there is a possibility of reaching an agreement in the future between both sides?
I am an optimist if people on both sides make the effort to understand and talk about the others point of view there is always a chance of agreement, however at present the difference in views are such that time needs to pass before any meaningful dialog could be held. Given that we have lived peacefully on the Falklands for many generations presenting no threat to Argentina that should not be too much to ask?