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Argentina makes new call for Falkland Islands talks with Britain

Argentina’s president called Tuesday for the reopening of negotiations on the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands, prompting a rebuff from Britain with which it fought a 1982 war over the remote archipelago.

Cristina Kirchner used the EU-Latin America summit in Madrid to raise the issue of the long-disputed Falkland Islands, or “Malvinas”, the Spanish name for the 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.

After a short war, Britain regained control of the islands, which lie some 450 kilometres (280 miles) off Argentina’s coast.

But they remain a bone of contention, and Argentina was outraged when oil exploration began there in late February.

Jeremy Browne, minister for Latin America in Britain’s new Conservative-led coalition government, rejected Kirchner’s suggestion outright.

“We have no doubt about our sovereignty over the Falkland Islands,” Browne said, noting that the European Union’s Lisbon Treaty recognises the Falkland Islands as an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom.

“The principle of self determination as set out in the UN charter applies. There cannot be negotiation on sovereignty unless and until the Falkland Islanders so wish,” he added, in a statement released by the Foreign Office.

Tensions over the islands 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 in her speech to the summit.

At a news conference at the end of the summit, she referred to the Browne’s statement and accused London of “double standards.”

“‘Sovereignty is unnegotiable’ is what I have read from the UK,” she said.

“Well, I think that is a mistake, especially because something that we are all calling for, in all fora, is multilateralism and … not to have double standards in which less powerful countries are frog-marched into agreements.

“To refuse to sit down and talk is not proper,” she said. Britain “should set an example and fall in line with the resolutions of the United Nations.”

She was referring to a 1965 UN Security Council resolution which called on Britain and Argentina “to proceed without delay” with sovereignty negotiations over the Falklands.

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

Browne added: “While we disagree with Argentina over the Falkland Islands, we have a close and productive relationship on a range of other issues.

These included “economic issues in the G20 and on climate change, sustainable development and counter-proliferation,” he said.

Britain last week also 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.”