Falklands-Malvinas - perhaps a different approach

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Falklands-Malvinas - perhaps a different approach

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It is true that the disputed islands named both Falkland and Malvinas are closer to Argentina than to Britain. But geographical arguments are slippery in colonial debates.

Some say Argentines were asked to leave by the British in 1833. Others counter that they were a mere handful of Argentine convicts who had just arrived and who mutinied against their commander.

Spain and Britain had made earlier claims in any case – and the Portuguese and French.

Today, long since official permanent settlement by the British, the place is rich in fish and fossil fuel potential – worth fighting for, many thought in 1982.

A coup in Argentina six years earlier had left it with a dictatorship that mismanaged what had been a prosperous country, and made many thousands of dissidents disappear.

Buenos Aires decided it would be good for popularity if it got Las Malvinas back. Why not? It had only been lost for 149 years.

But Britain disagreed, and sent ships. The result was some 900 dead, mostly Argentines.

Now, 30 years later, Argentina is going at it with more tact. They want to reopen discreet United Nations talks between London and Buenos Aires that began in 1965 but were let drop when the islanders found out.

Argentine Interior Minister Florencio Randazzo said: “We aspire to the notion that they will finally respect the UN resolution agreed by most of the world’s countries, whereby Britain will discuss Argentine sovereignty that for us is indisputable: the Malvinas are Argentine.”

The countries Buenos Aires most notably wishes to rally to its cause are the other 11 members of the intergovernmental Union of South American Nations, UNASUR.

The Argentine foreign minister, Héctor Marcos Timerman, said that all of them have decided that “boats with an illegal flag are an occupying force in the Falkland Islands and they cannot be used to enter any port of UNASUR countries.”

With this agreement, Argentina persuaded nearly all its continental neighbours, in the interest of solidarity, to keep their ports closed to any boat from the Falkland Islands.

But in the Falkland capital, Port Stanley, an elected representative says the move is hardly putting the islands’ 3,000 inhabitants or so off their tea.

Dick Sawle, a member of the Falklands legislative assembly, said: “Are those measures causing us any problem? No, not really.”

Some 15,000 kilometres away, in the House of Commons in London, the prime minister stated his position.

David Cameron said: “We support the Falkland Islanders’ right to self-determination. And what the Argentineans have been saying recently, I would argue, is actually far more like colonialism because these people want to remain British and the Argentineans want them to do something else.”

As if to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the 10-week war over the Falklands, Britain’s Prince William, the grandson of Queen Elizabeth II is preparing for a tour of duty there, as a helicopter pilot.