27 June 2006
A Tougher but Pointless Stance on the Falklands
According to today’s Times Argentina has given a warning of “a drastic change” in its approach towards its claim to the Falklands. The Government of Nestor Kirchner has indicated that it will take a hardline approach on issues such as fishing and oil exploration rights in pressing Argentina’s claim to the South Atlantic islands — a move that marks a significant deterioration in relations with Britain.
Sr Kirchner, who is expected to win re-election next year, has told ministers that he will abandon the so-called “sovereignty umbrella” agreed by former President Menem, under which Argentina agreed to set aside claims over the Falklands to facilitate accords on fishing, oil exploration and transport. Señor Menem and Guido Di Tella, his Foreign Minister, had sought to eradicate the legacy of Argentina’s military dictatorship and the invasion to gain the goodwill of the islanders. But Buenos Aires has grown impatient with London’s refusal to enter negotiations over sovereignty, believing that Britain has abused its position to
exploit fishing rights at the expense of Argentine trawlers.
“The UK will not negotiate on sovereignty unless and until the islanders wish it,” a spokesman said. “We remain committed to co-operation work on a bilateral agenda to the benefit of all, including Argentina.” Last month Howard Pearce, the Governor of the Falklands, said that those living on the islands were still committed to remaining part of the UK. In his annual address he said: “Pressure (from Argentina) will prove utterly counter-productive. Falkland islanders are united in their wish to remain British.”
But the Argentine Government rejects the claim that the islanders have a right to self-determination. Jorge Taiana, the Foreign Minister, contends that they had been “planted” on what he called “sovereign Argentine territory”.
The policy shift by Sr Kirchner’s Government comes as campaigning kicks off for the 2007 presidential elections. Sr Kirchner, whose populist policies have garnered him record approval ratings since he took power in 2002, has consistently affirmed Argentina’s claim to the Falklands. He raised the issue with Tony Blair as far back as 2003. Story ends
Sr Kirchner may whip up all the nationalist sentiment he likes. It may well win him another term in power but it will not advance Argentina’s claim over the Falklands a single jot. Right now the UK will not give a second’s consideration to transferring sovereignty and Sr Kirchner can thank the Falklands War for that. That said there is plenty of scope for negotiations over fishing, oil and other rights. I am sure that this will be of great benefit to Argentina and I hope these are successful.
I would like to quote an Argentinian friend’s view of this story (he was the one who drew my attention to it) “This is insane. They are doing very well, jobs are up, corruption is down, the police and military are on a leash, the world is beginning to trust Argentina to do business with and now Kirchner wants to play "my-chunk-of-land" again? Rattling sabers, perhaps? There could have been an agreement on common exploration and harvest of natural resources on the ocean around the Falklands, but the criminal invasion of 1982 pretty much closed that door.
I say: Ask the Islanders what government they want. Check the answer. Close the book."