Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 23 October 2014

UN calls for Falklands dialogue

Hector Timerman said it was imperative that the UK sits down again at the negotiating table

A UN committee approved a new resolution calling on Britain and Argentina to negotiate a solution to their dispute over the Falkland Islands, essentially favouring Argentina's stance in the nearly 200-year-old feud.

The 24-nation Decolonisation Committee passed the resolution by consensus despite passionate speeches from a pair of Falkland Islands representatives arguing that most islanders want to keep things as they are.

The decision showed that the committee members have been largely unmoved by a referendum in the Falkland Islands last year in which more than 99% of voters favoured remaining a British Overseas Territory.

Britain has rebuffed Argentina's calls to negotiate the sovereignty of the wind-swept south Atlantic archipelago, saying it is up to the islands to decide.

Argentinian foreign minister Hector Timerman railed at Britain for ignoring dozens of UN resolutions urging the two countries to sit down and talk.

"It is imperative that the United Kingdom sits down again at the negotiating table," he said.

Britain asserted control of the islands by placing a naval garrison there in 1833. Argentina claims Britain stole the territory, and the two countries fought a brief war in 1982 after Argentina invaded the islands.

The Falkland Islands Government is a direct democracy and largely self-governing, although Britain handles its defence and foreign affairs.

Excluding the British military and civilian contractors, the territory has a population of about 2,563 people, according to a 2012 census.

Argentina argues that the Falkland Islands dispute is a matter of "sovereignty," while Britain prefers to refer to "self-determination," which focuses more on the people than on the territory.

Mr Timerman pressed Argentina's claims that islanders are an "implanted" population, kept stagnant with strict immigration policies for the purpose of occupying territory that does not belong to them.

Roger Edwards, a member of the Falklands Islands Legislative Assembly, said such claims are false.

He said he and many other islanders come from families who have been there for generations and "have a strong wish to be master of our own affairs".

Mr Edwards said: "We are confident in our future. The only inhibition to our development is the continuing spiteful aggression of our people by Argentina."

The British Mission to the UN criticised the committee for ignoring the outcome of last year's referendum.

"It is disappointing that once again the C24 has not respected the clear and democratic expression of the Falkland Islanders' wishes and continues to describe the Falkland Islands' constitutional relationship with the UK as a 'colonial situation,'" the mission said.

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