U.K. mulls more active role in territories

STANLEY, Falkland Islands, Nov. 18 (UPI) -- The British-ruled Falkland Islands and other overseas U.K. territories in the Atlantic and Caribbean regions will receive more proactive participation by London in their foreign policy and economic development, officials said.

The announcement followed months of agonizing in Whitehall, seat of the British government, on how best to use historical links to protect political and security interests in the vast region.


The problem was brought into sharp focus as Argentina launched an international campaign to discredit British rule in the Falklands, designated as an overseas territory with its own government. Argentina claims Falklands as its own, despite its earlier acknowledgment of British sovereignty after a 74-day conflict that was triggered by an Argentine military assault on the islands in 1982.

The Falklands war resulted in the deaths of 257 British and 649 Argentine military personnel and three civilian Falklanders.

The Argentine defeat in the Falklands discredited the country's military junta and helped restore democratic rule but didn't deter Argentina's politicians from recently reviving claims over the Falklands.

Argentine claims over the Falklands became more persistent after the discovery of potentially large deposits of oil and gas in the North Falkland Basin, South Atlantic waters north of the islands.


British military forces, distracted by conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, sent reinforcements and increased naval patrols in the South Atlantic but the bitter row over Argentina highlighted lingering problems with Buenos Aires.

No such crisis exists around Britain's other overseas territories, 13 in all, many in the Caribbean but spread across the world. The Argentine-British dispute, however, raised concerns that international perceptions of the United Kingdom as a global power in decline could spell trouble elsewhere.

A new strategy to reinvigorate the United Kingdom's relationship with its Overseas Territories was unveiled as the annual Overseas Territories Consultative Council met in London.

Called by Foreign Office Minister for the Overseas Territories Henry Bellingham, the meeting brought together territorial heads of government and elected representatives.

Other than defense and security, the talks looked at public finance and governance, criminal justice, transport and the environment.

Analysts said Argentine interventions actually helped supporters of the overseas territories in bringing their cause to the attention of key decision-makers in London.

Bellingham said Britain "wants to develop a new strategy for the Overseas Territories which provides more effective support for their development and better risk management; one that involves, and is agreed by, the whole of U.K. government."


The 14 Overseas Territories are a diverse group. They include the island of Pitcairn in the southern Pacific Ocean, which has 47 inhabitants, and Bermuda in the north Atlantic, a major financial center. The total population of the British overseas territories is around 239,000.

Other U.K. overseas territories include Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Montserrat, St Helena, Ascension Island and Tristan da Cunha, Turks and Caicos Islands and Gibraltar.

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