President Cristina Fernandez has published an open letter calling on Britain to enter talks on the fate of the disputed Falklands Islands. The British Foreign Office said this was a decision for the islanders themselves.
Cristina Fernandez's letter coincided with the 180th anniversary of the Falklands Islands reverting to their current stint under British control in 1833, in what the Argentine president called "a blatant exercise of 19th-Century colonialism."
The letter makes no specific requests or demands on the islands, known as the Malvinas in Argentina, save for the closing sentence, which appears to refer to prior mentions of a 1965 General Assembly resolution urging bilateral talks on the matter between Britain and Argentina.
"In the name of the Argentine people, I reiterate our invitation for us to abide by the resolutions of the United Nations," Fernandez concludes.
That UN resolution, number 2065, pre-dates the 1982 conflict over the Falkland Islands in which 655 Argentine soldiers and 255 British troops were killed.
The islands are one of Britain's self-governing overseas territories. The letter was published, in return for payment, in the left-leaning Guardian newspaper, among others.
Britain puts onus on islanders
The British government responded with its typical stance on the Falkland islands, arguing that it was up to the people living there to determine their future.
"Future of Falklands should be determined by Islanders living there. As long as they choose to remain with UK they have my 100% backing," read an entry on the official Twitter account of Prime Minister David Cameron, prefaced with "PM:" to denote that the words were Cameron's.
The Falklands' legislature announced last June that it would hold a referendum, currently scheduled for March, on the political status of the island. Government Chairman Gavin Short said at the time that the vote wasn't about what future the islanders wanted, "but to show the world just how certain we are about it."
The British Foreign Office said it supported this vote.
"Unlike the government of Argentina, the United Kingdom respects the right of our people to determine their own affairs, a right that is enshrined in the UN Charter and which is ignored by Argentina," a Foreign Office official wrote on the ministry's Twitter account, saying there could be no talks on the islands' sovereignty "unless and until such time as the islanders wish."
Oil and the Antarctic
Fernandez has said she doesn't consider the referendum valid because the roughly 3,000 islanders are seen as colonial occupiers, not residents, by Argentina. Her open letter, which was copied to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, said that after the 1833 establishment of British rule, the UK "subsequently began a population implantation process similar to that applied to other territories under colonial rule."
The waters off the Falklands are thought to be potentially rich in oil reserves, while the land mass' proximity to the Antarctic has also gained significance in recent years.
Argentina disputed a parliamentary decision in London recently to name a part of the Antarctic "Elizabeth Land" for Queen Elizabeth II's diamond jubilee. The territory in question is also claimed by Argentina.
msh/tm (AP, dpa, Reuters)