Kirchner accuses Britain of taking Argentina’s resources after South American trading bloc bans boats with islands’ flag
The Argentinian president has accused Britain of taking her country’s resources and ignoring UN resolutions, as the Foreign Office condemned a move by a South American trading bloc to ban from its ports ships flying the Falkland Islands flag.
Tensions over the long-disputed territory erupted into the open after the decision by Mercosur, which includes Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Brazil, to target ships with the “illegal” flag of the Falklands. The Foreign Office said Britain was “very concerned” by what it saw as the “latest Argentine attempt to isolate the Falkland Islands people and damage their livelihoods, for which there is no justification”.
But the Argentinian president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, welcomed the ban, thanking her regional allies for their solidarity and criticising Britain. Although refraining from calling for the islands to be declared Argentinian, she asked for fresh talks on the status of the islands.
“The United Kingdom is a permanent member of the UN security council yet they do not respect a single, not a single resolution,” she told the Mercosur summit in the Uruguayan capital, Montevideo. “We are not asking them to come here and recognise that the Malvinas are Argentinian, but what we are saying is for them to comply with the UN, sit down and talk, talk, talk.” She added: “Nor should they come at us with the excuse of the dictatorship or the war from 30 years ago, because they were the ones who would speak with the dictators.”
In her speech, Kirchner cited Britain’s oil and gas exploration near the archipelago as a reason why South American countries should join forces on the Falklands issue. A UK company struck oil there last year, raising tensions with Argentina nearly three decades after the two countries went to war.
In Buenos Aires, an extraordinary session of Argentina’s senate on Wednesday passed two resolutions backing the ban.
One was proposed by Rubén Giustiniani, a socialist senator, who earlier this year warned David Cameron the Falklands’ sovereignty was “non-negotiable”.
The Foreign Office condemned the Mercosur declaration, under which the bloc’s four full members vowed “to adopt … all the measures it is possible to impose to impede the entry of boats flying the illegal flag of the Malvinas [Falkland] Islands.”
“It is not immediately clear what practical impact, if any, this statement will have, which mirrors the language already used by the Union of South American Nations in 2010,” the Foreign Office said. “We are discussing this urgently with countries in the region. But no one should doubt our determination to protect the Falkland Islanders’ right to determine their own political future.”
At the Mercosur summit, the president of Uruguay, José Mujica, described the Falkland Islands as “a colonial British position” in South America. “We hold nothing against the UK,” he said, “but we have a lot in favour of Argentina.”
Mujica said his country would never impose a maritime blockade of the Falklands. But Roger Spink, president of the Falklands Chamber of Commerce, said the community already felt isolated. “If we were Palestine, the European Union would be up in arms,” he told the BBC.
On Wednesday night, Jan Cheek, of the Falkland Islands’ Legislative Assembly, said: “The people of the Falkland Islands deeply regret the decision by Mercosur to ban our legitimately flagged vessels from entering their ports, though we can sympathise with our friends in South America as to the bullying tactics employed by Argentina. We are resourceful people, and we will not bow to Argentina in their attempts to undermine our home and way of life.
“We welcome reports that President Mujica has said Uruguay will not participate in an economic blockade of the Falkland Islands. We would remind the countries of South America of the long and mutually beneficial trade relationship we share with countries in the region, and encourage them to respect us as the valuable and reliable regional partner we have strived to be.”
Professor Mark Jones, a Latin America expert and political scientist from Rice University in Houston, said Fernández’s increasingly vocal stance on the Falklands was partly a helpful sideshow from domestic political issues, including subsidy cuts and inflation.
“This issue has historically been used quite a bit by Argentinian presidents when they want to distract the public,” he said. “The Malvinas issue is always a good one to distract and also to rally people around the government. It’s always a political winner.””For at least the short time it will bring the relationship between the UK and Argentina to another low level – it ratchets relations down one more level,” he added.