Argentina makes south Atlantic sovereignty claim

Argentina staked a claim to a vast area of seabed stretching from South America to the Antarctic in its latest bid for control of the South Atlantic in a historic dispute with the United Kingdom.

British officials were quick to state the claim would have no effect on the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands.

Argentina presented 12 years’ worth of research to the United Nations to prove its continental shelf extends up to 150 miles beyond the current 200-mile limit.

That is an additional 688,280 square miles of submarine area, the head of the Argentinian commission that prepared the study, Frida Armas Pfirter, said.

The presentation, made on Tuesday, reiterates and strengthens Argentina’s claim to sovereignty over the Falkland Islands, the South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands, Ms Armas Pfirter said.

But authorities at the British Embassy in Buenos Aires contested the claim.

“We do not accept that there is any basis for the Argentine submission to include areas of the continental shelf generated by (claims to) the Falklands, the South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands,” said a spokesman.

Argentina has claimed the Falklands since Britain first occupied them in 1833.

Decades of tensions flared into a full-fledged war in 1982, a 73-day conflict that took the lives of 649 Argentinians and 258 Britons.

British control of the Malvinas, as the islands are called in Spanish, is still a sensitive topic in Argentina.

More than an issue of national pride, a claim to the extended continental shelf would give Argentina the right to increase exploration for oil and gas in the South Atlantic, said Ms Armas Pfirter.

The Falkland Islands government is currently exploring its nearby seabed for oil, said the Embassy spokesman, who noted that Britain will formally object to Argentina’s presentation.

Both sides acknowledged that because of procedural rules governing the UN commission, any territorial disagreement raised by either party means the claim must be dropped.

In that case, the “dispute must be shelved,” the Embassy official said. “No pun intended.”


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