Argentina pushes Falklands claim in EU

Jan. 31, 2013 at 4:07 PM
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BUENOS AIRES, Jan. 31 (UPI) -- Argentina is pushing its claim on British-ruled Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic in a diplomatic campaign launched this week in, of all places, London.

In a continuation of Buenos Aires' bitter rhetoric that calls the islands Las Malvinas, accuses Britain of neo-colonialism and threatening conduct in Argentina's neighborhood, Foreign Minister Hector Timerman plans to raise the claim when he meets with British Foreign Secretary William Hague.

Senior EU officials are expected to attend international talks in London where both Hague and Timerman will meet other European personalities, which Argentine officials see as an opportunity to air their views on the Falklands. Names of participants in the meetings weren't revealed.

Argentina's former military dictatorship invaded the islands in 1982 but was beaten back by Britain. After return to civilian rule, Argentina resumed its claim, setting aside a formal surrender after a 74-day war that claimed about 1,000 lives.

Argentine analysts see the government's diplomatic effort as a timely intervention set to try and profit from Britain's current acrimonious dialogue with EU partners on future ties between London and Brussels.

Critics of Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner see the Falklands initiative as a diversion from any discussion of the Latin American country's economic and political woes.

Britain said it would welcome any discussion but has asked two lawmakers from its overseas territory taking part in any talks that mention Falklands.

London says the islands are self-ruled and that Falklanders have chosen to remain part of its overseas territories, 14 remnants of the British empire that are spread across the globe.

The real estate exceeds 667,000 miles with a population of about 260,000 worldwide. About 3,000 Falklanders who inhabit the islands' 4,700 square miles are one of the more prosperous overseas British communities in the constellation of former colonies.

Falkland Islands' Legislative Assembly members Jan Cheek and Dick Sawle will be at hand to give Hague backing during talks in London, officials in Stanley, the islands' South Atlantic capital, said in a statement.

Sawle is fluent in Spanish and an expert on Falklands' history. Cheek, a longtime legislator, met with British Prime Minister David Cameron last year.

The Falklands' lawmakers wrote an open letter to Fernandez in 2012 to argue for their case against Argentine claims.

Argentina has announced populist events to mark the 180th anniversary of Britain's "forcible usurpation" of the Falklands in January 1833. The Falklanders' say the Argentine campaign is part of an effort to belittle a planned referendum March 10-11 that will confirm their status as citizens of the British overseas territory.

A statement from the Falklands government said Hague has "reiterated to Argentina that there can never be any negotiations over the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands unless and until the Falkland Islanders so wish. The Falkland Islands Legislative Assembly believes that the result of the forthcoming referendum will demonstrate definitively that we do not. Should the issue of sovereignty be raised at the meeting, it will not be discussed."

It added, "We want to reassure anyone concerned by this that we are not going to be negotiating any deal with Argentina. Rather we are anticipating a full and frank exchange of views. Indeed we look forward to giving Mr. Timerman some very direct messages on the unacceptability of Argentina's actions against the Falkland Islands in recent years. We demand that our rights be respected, and that we be left in peace to choose our own future and to develop our country for our children and generations to come. It is only right that he should hear this directly from us, as well as from Mr. Hague," the Falklanders said.

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