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Charges filed in Falklands dispute

Argentina has filed criminal charges against British oil firms exploring in waters near the Falkland Islands in a fresh diplomatic row over the territory, the Argentinian foreign ministry said tonight.

British ambassador Dr John Freeman was summoned to the Argentinian foreign office in the latest swipe in the dispute where he was told legal proceedings would begin today.

Just yesterday his counterpart was called to the UK Foreign Office to explain recent threats over oil explorations and criticism about the British Government's plan to boost defences on the South Atlantic islands.

The comments were made after British firms Premier Oil, Rockhopper Exploration and Falkland Oil & Gas announced that they had found oil and gas in a remote field north of the islands, which are claimed by Argentina.

In a statement today the Argentinian foreign ministry said it "will file criminal charges today against companies conducting hydrocarbon exploration activities in the Argentinian continental shelf".

It claimed that oil firms working in the waters around the islands without formal permission from Argentina were "violating" UN resolutions about the territory "while a solution to the controversy is still pending".

Britain last week dismissed the threat of prosecution against oil and gas firms, and earlier today said it was in "no doubt" about the its sovereignty over the Falkland Islands.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "The UK has no doubt about its sovereignty over the Falkland Islands and surrounding maritime areas, nor about the Falkland Islanders' right to decide their own future.

"We object strongly to recent statements by the Argentine president and the Argentine ambassador to London and so summoned the ambassador to account for these."

The Argentine foreign ministry said it also questioned Dr Freeman about recent claims that the UK spied on Argentina over concerns it would launch an attempt to reclaim the Falkland Islands.

According to media reports, documents were released by American whistleblower Edward Snowden last week.

The statement said: "The Argentinian deputy foreign minister Eduardo Zuain summoned the British Ambassador, John Freeman, to demand explanations over the silence of the British government following Edward Snowden's disclosures published by The Intercept regarding acts of mass surveillance targeted against Argentina.

"According to this media outlet, these acts were carried out in response to growing international pressure to resolve the sovereignty dispute over the Malvinas (Falklands)."

It added: " contrast to the British belligerence, Argentina affirms that only through dialogue and negotiations, by implementing (UN resolutions), will (sic) put an end to the anachronistic colonial situation that has been going on for over 182 years."


From Belfast Telegraph