Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

Fernandez marks Falklands milestone

Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez at a ceremony in Ushuaia marking the 30th anniversary of the start of the Falkland conflict(AP)
Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez holds up a plaque that reads 'Islas Malvina' (AP)

Argentina's president has said she has asked the International Red Cross to persuade Britain to let its experts identify unknown soldiers buried in the Falkland Islands.

Thirty years after Argentina and Britain went to war over the remote South Atlantic archipelago, Cristina Fernandez said universal human rights demand that both countries work together to give those bodies back to their families.

Her much-anticipated speech on the anniversary of Argentina's April 2, 1982 invasion of the islands the country claims as the Malvinas was focused on promoting dialogue and understanding.

She said her government sets a global standard for protecting human rights and vowed to "respect the interests of the islanders" if Argentina manages to peacefully gain control over the archipelago.

"We don't have war drums, nor do we wear military helmets. Our only helmets are those of construction workers, working for the inclusion of all," she said in a brief speech at the Monument to the Fallen, honouring the 649 Argentines who died in the conflict.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron said in London that Britain had to come to the islanders' defence in 1982, and will do so again if anyone tries to deprive them of their liberty.

The 74-day occupation ended when British troops routed the ill-prepared Argentines in hard-fought trench warfare. In all, 255 British soldiers and three islanders were killed.

Ms Fernandez called Mr Cameron's statement absurd and ridiculous, noting that Argentines were also deprived of their liberty at the time, living under a 1976-1983 dictatorship, supported by outside powers, that had kidnapped and killed thousands of its own people.

"I am proud of having made promoting human rights one of the pillars of our state," she said, adding that for this reason it's impossible to consider that Argentina would not also protect the rights of the 3,000 islanders.

Britain has refused Argentina's repeated calls to negotiate the islands' sovereignty, saying it is up to the islanders to decide. Before, during and after the 1982 conflict, the islanders have overwhelmingly said they want to maintain British protection.

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