Argentina squeezing Falklands

2012-06-07 21:29
Port Stanley, Falklands

Port Stanley, Falklands

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London - Britain's Latin America minister on Thursday accused Argentina of using its position as a major world power to dent the economy of the Falklands Islands, as he prepares to visit the tiny South Atlantic archipelago to mark the 30th anniversary of a brief and bloody war between the two countries over the territory.

Jeremy Browne, who will visit the Falklands next week, said that attempts to develop tourism in the islands - a self-governing British Overseas Territory also claimed by Argentina - were being damaged by actions taken by Buenos Aires.

The islands are seeking to attract visitors to boost tourism, hoping to capitalize on the territory's wide variety of wildlife, including penguins, sea lions and the rare caracara bird.

In recent months, Argentine ports have turned away cruise ships carrying the British flag, while flights passing through the islands are restricted from Argentine airspace. In addition, Argentina has recently called on its Latin American neighbours to boycott British goods.

Tensions have risen ahead of the June 14 anniversary of the end of the short war between Argentina and Britain over the Falklands, which began on 2 April, 1982, and saw more than 900 people die.

Argentines insist Britain has illegally occupied the islands they call the Islas Malvinas since 1833. Britain accuses Buenos Aires of ignoring the wishes of the islanders, who say they are happy with their current status as a British outpost.

"There is a G-20 country, at the top table of world affairs - and one would imagine keen to be responsible on the world stage - with a population of about 40 million people, seeking to put an economic blockade in place which will in tangible terms... impoverish an isolated community with about 3 000 people," Browne told reporters ahead of his visit.

Browne, who has held talks in London with Argentina's ambassador Alicia Castro, said the move by the country's government to sue five British companies involved in oil exploration off the coast of the Falklands were doomed to fail.

The prospect of exploiting undersea gas and oil reserves in the seas surrounding the islands has further fuelled hostilities between the British and Argentine governments.

Autonomy

The lawsuits are "part of trying to frustrate the economic development of the Falkland Islands," Browne said. "But I don't get any sense that what Argentina is doing will impede oil exploration."

Britain argues that it is down to the population of the Falkland Islands, which has its own government and a large degree of autonomy from London, to decide on their own future.

Two representatives from the Falkland Islands legislative assembly, and a group of schoolchildren, will next week travel to the United Nations in New York to lobby Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez.

Fernandez will attend a meeting of the UN's decolonisation committee next Thursday, a session Browne said appeared to have been "arranged deliberately" to coincide with the anniversary.

"It would be interesting for her if she were to meet with them, because she would get a powerful sense that the position of the Falkland Islanders is not the creation of the British government... it's the deeply held view of many ordinary people," Browne said.

Browne said the Falkland Islanders attending the committee would dispel the myth that they yearn to become part of Argentina.

The minister is scheduled to arrive in the Falkland Islands on Sunday. A delegation of British lawmakers will also travel there next week to attend anniversary events.

- SAPA
Read more on:    argentina  |  uk
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