Argentina makes summit appeal for Falklands talks

18th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

Argentine President Cristina Kirchner used an EU-Latin America summit Tuesday to call for a resumption of talks between Buenos Aires and London over the disputed Falklands Islands.

"I would like to ask, on behalf of my country and the countries of Latin America... please reopen our negotiations over the sovereignty of the Malvinas," Kirchner said in a speech at the opening ceremony of the Madrid summit.

Argentina and Britain went to war in 1982 over the Falklands, a remote archipelago lying some 450 kilometres (280 miles) off Argentina's coast which are known in the Spanish-speaking world as Las Malvinas.

Britain regained control of the islands but they remain a bone of contention, and Argentina was outraged when oil exploration began there in late February.

Tensions rose further on May 6 when British firm Rockhopper announced a first discovery of crude oil in a well off the islands.

Referring to the 1982 war, Kirchner said her government should not be blamed for "what happened during military dictatorships."

"We are a peaceful country," she said.

Britain's new prime minister, David Cameron, did not attend the EU-Latin America summit, where London was represented by Foreign Minister William Hague.

In apparent response to Kirchner's comments, Britain later Tuesday reiterated its principle of "self-determination" for the Falklands.

"There cannot be negotiation on sovereignty unless and until the Falkland Islanders so wish," Minister of State for Latin America Jeremy Browne said in a statement.

"The Lisbon Treaty clearly reaffirms the EU position that the Falkland Islands is an overseas Territory of the United Kingdom.

"While we disagree with Argentina over the Falkland Islands, we have a close and productive relationship on a range of other issues, including on economic issues in the G20 and on climate change, sustainable development and counter-proliferation."

Britain last week rebuffed a call by Kirchner to Cameron to halt all oil exploration in the waters around the Falklands.

Earlier this month South American leaders endorsed the Argentine position at a summit by the 12-nation Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), charging that the oil exploration was being "illegally carried out."

© 2010 AFP

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