Argentina and Britain have had another bitter clash at the United Nations over the Falkland Islands.
Argentine foreign minister Hector Timerman’s calls for talks with Britain on the sovereignty of the Falklands was brushed aside by the UK, which pointing to the islanders’ overwhelming vote this month to remain British.
But Mr Timerman called the referendum “illegal” and said it was “truly deplorable” that Britain had rejected 40 resolutions by the UN Decolonisation Committee calling for negotiations between the two countries on sovereignty.
Mr Timerman was flanked at a press conference by ministers representing major Latin American and Caribbean organisations, saying he wanted to demonstrate the region’s unity in support of Argentina’s claim to the islands and its demand for sovereignty talks.
The islands in the south Atlantic have been British territory since 1765, but Argentina accuses Britain of invading the islands, which it claims and calls the Malvinas.
Britain’s UN ambassador Sir Mark Lyall Grant said the Falkland Islanders exercised their right to self-determination under the UN Charter in a referendum this month, and 99.8% of voters said they wanted to remain a British overseas territory.
“The United Kingdom government’s position will remain that there will not and cannot be any discussions on the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands unless and until the islanders so wish,” Sir Mark said. “Their views are now unequivocally on the record and should be respected by all.”
Mr Timerman condemned Britain’s “military invasion” of the Falklands but said Argentina wanted a peaceful settlement.
He claimed Britain wants the Falklands as a military base “with high offensive technology close to the Antarctic and close to the only natural waterway between the Atlantic and the Pacific”, calling it “a strategic colonialist decision”.
Mr Timerman also accused Britain of refusing to answer “if there are nuclear submarines or not in the area of the South Atlantic, which is an area of peace where the entry of nuclear weapons is prohibited”.
Sir Mark said Mr Timerman’s claim that Britain was militarising the south Atlantic was “completely untrue”.
After Argentina invaded the Falklands in 1982, Britain increased its defence presence to deter any future aggression, but Sir Mark said it has not changed substantially in the last 30 years.
Earlier, Mr Timerman met UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon along with Cuban foreign minister Bruno Rodriguez, representing the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States; Uruguay’s foreign minister Luis Almargo, representing South America’s Mercosur trade bloc; and Peru’s deputy foreign minister Jose Beraun, on behalf of the Union of South American Nations.
Mr Timerman said Mr Ban told the ministers that Britain again rejected his offer of good offices to negotiate on sovereignty of the islands. Sir Mark said Britain did not see any need for Mr Ban’s good offices and has made it clear to Argentina that the views of the islanders must be taken into account in any discussions.
Uruguay’s Mr Almargo accused Britain of seeking to exploit the islands’ energy resources and called the referendum “dysfunctional”, saying it was not right to cut off part of Argentina through a referendum. He added that the dispute was “becoming intolerable” for Latin America and for the UN itself.