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Argentina hails UN ruling on maritime territory to include Falklands

A UN commission has agreed with Buenos Aires that Argetine maritime territory extends to the end of the continental shelf. The UK downplayed the ruling, saying the committee has no legal authority.

The Argentine government on Tuesday celebrated a UN commission ruling that extends its maritime territory by some 35 percent, to include

the contested Falkland Islands

.

The sparsely inhabited islands have long been a point of contention between Buenos Aires and London, who fought a short and bloody war over the territories.

The UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf has sided with Argentina, confirming the country's 2009 report which fixes the end of its sovereignty between 200 and 350 miles from the coast. On Monday, the Argentine Foreign Ministry said this effectively increases the country's territory by .066 million square miles (1.7 million square kilometers), and encompasses the disputed archipelago.

Britain did not appear moved by the ruling, however. On Tuesday, a spokeswoman for Prime Minister David Cameron downplayed the decision, saying the commission was an advisory group and not able to issue legally binding decisions.

"It's important to note that this is an advisory committee - it makes recommendations, they are not legally binding and the commission does not have jurisdiction over sovereignty issues," the spokeswoman was quoted by The Guardian newspaper as saying.

"What's important is what do the Falkland islanders themselves think? They've been clear that they want to remain an overseas territory of the UK and we will still support their right to determine their own future."

The population of the islands was just under 3,000 as of a 2012 census. The most recent sovereignty referendum, held in 2013, saw 99.8 percent of the population vote to official remain a UK territory, which they have been since 1833. In 1982, Argentina briefly invaded and occupied the Falkland Islands, leading to a ten-week war in which hundreds died on either side.

Britain reasserted its authority following an Argentine surrender, but sovereignty of the islands has remained a bone of contention ever since.

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