News24

Falklands row taken to UN

2010-02-25 14:02

New York – Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Taiana on Wednesday pressed UN chief Ban Ki-moon to intervene in an ongoing row over oil drilling by a British firm in waters off the disputed Falkland Islands.

"We have asked the secretary general, within the framework of his good offices, to stress to Britain the need to abstain from further unilateral acts," Taiana told reporters after calling on Ban at UN headquarters.

A military threat has surged in recent days over the British-ruled Falklands, a South Atlantic archipelago that Buenos Aires calls the Islas Malvinas and insists it owns despite losing a 1982 war with Britain, which has held them since 1833.

The dispute has heated up in recent days following the start of oil drilling off the Falkland Islands.

Oil exploration licences

Eight years after the islands' government auctioned off oil exploration licences, a British firm, Desire Petroleum, started drilling in waters of the South Atlantic archipelago on Monday.

The aim of the drilling is to establish if the promise of deep oil reserves is well-founded, but analysts say the British Geological Society's prediction of 60 billion barrels is almost certainly inflated.

Taiana called on Ban to impress on London "the need to comply with repeated resolutions of the 192-member General Assembly and its decolonisation committee", and the need "to sit down at the negotiating table with Argentina over the sovereignty dispute over the islands".

A UN statement said Ban took note of "Argentina's concerns regarding the Falkland Islands" and reiterated that "his good offices are available when requested by all parties in a dispute".

Expressed satisfaction


"The secretary general expressed satisfaction at Argentina's commitment to resolving its dispute with the UK over the islands in a peaceful manner," it added.

Britain, through its ambassador to the UN Mark Lyall Grant, meanwhile reaffirmed its sovereignty over the Falklands archipelago, saying it was "underpinned by the principle of self-determination as set out in the UN Charter".

"We are also clear that the Falkland Islands government is entitled to develop a hydrocarbons industry within its waters, and we support this legitimate business in Falklands' territory," he added.

On Tuesday, Argentine President Cristina Kirchner signed a decree ordering any ship passing through Argentine waters to request permission before going to the islands, which lie 450km off the Argentine coast.

Resolve the dispute

Latin American and Caribbean leaders this week called on Britain and Argentina to hold talks to resolve their dispute and voiced full support for Buenos Aires.

The summit of 32 nations in Mexico expressed "support for the legitimate rights of the Republic of Argentina in the sovereignty dispute with the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland" relating to islands.

Last year, Britain submitted a claim to the United Nations to extend its rights over the seabed off the coast of the Falkland Islands, despite its long-standing dispute with Argentina.

Under international law, states have jurisdiction over the seabed up to 200 nautical miles off their coasts but this can be extended up to 350 nautical miles through application to the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.

Argentine troops staged a surprise landing on the archipelago to assert their claim to the territory on April 2 1982, prompting a 74-day, bloody war with Britain in which 649 Argentine troops and 255 British soldiers died.