While Argentina's Foreign Minister Santiago Cafiero wrote for The Guardian last week that his country posed a threat to no one, Graham Bound, founder of Port Stanley's Penguin News, told the Spanish newswire service EFE that the presence of British troops on the islands did serve a purpose.
Despite Argentina's diminished military force since 1982, Cafiero pointed out that the UK maintains a major military base in the South Atlantic, carries out periodic military exercises in the disputed area and maintains restrictions on the sale of dual-use military materials to Argentina.”
The Foreign Minister claimed that restrictions of this kind were reserved usually for countries responsible for serious human rights violations, and found it “incomprehensible” that such treatment was given to Argentina.
But while Bound agreed Argentina posed no threat, he insisted that the presence of a British military force was a deterrent. The moment you remove that deterrent, you become much more vulnerable and I am convinced that there would almost immediately be a threat from some (Argentine) quarters. He also ruled out the possibility that the islands could become a fully independent territory because they cannot cope with its defense.
Cafiero insisted on the Argentine Government's numerous peaceful proposals such as the re-establishment of regular flights. “More flights mean more trade, more tourism and more dialogue, as we have had in the past,” the Foreign Minister argued.
Bound, on the other hand, said he would prefer an official apology for the suffering caused to the Falklanders when Argentine troops occupied the islands by force in 1982. It could be a good starting point for reconciliation, Bound suggested from London, where he is now based. After all, most Argentines have already agreed that the war was a mistake. Forty years is a nice round number. It would be a nice opportunity to say 'we apologize, you didn't deserve that,' Bound explained. It could be a good starting point for reconciliation.”
Cafiero also highlighted the latest achievements by veterans, islanders and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to help painstakingly identify the bodies of most of the unknown Argentine soldiers fallen during the 1982 conflict. “We have also made great progress over the last 40 years in humanitarian matters. We were able to identify the remains of more than 120 Argentine ex-combatants and provide an answer to their families, after so many years of uncertainty.”
There are plans for a third humanitarian mission to the islands. Even without an apology.