British PM dismisses Argentina's Falklands demands

3rd January 2013, Comments 0 comments

British Prime Minister David Cameron dismissed Thursday a renewed call by Argentinian President Cristina Kirchner for Britain to return the disputed Falkland Islands.

Cameron said the 3,000 residents of the South Atlantic archipelago had a strong desire to remain British and would have a chance to express their views in a referendum on their political status this year.

A spokesman for the legislative assembly of the islands, which are known as Las Malvinas in Spanish, confirmed the vote would take place on March 10 and 11.

In an open letter addressed to Cameron and published as a paid advert in two British newspapers, Kirchner said the islands were "forcibly stripped" from Argentina exactly 180 years ago on Thursday, "in a blatant exercise of 19th-century colonialism".

"Since then, Britain, the colonial power, has refused to return the territories to the Argentine Republic, thus preventing it from restoring its territorial integrity," she wrote.

But Cameron said that the future of the islands "should be determined by the Falkland Islanders themselves".

"Whenever they have been asked their opinion, they say they want to maintain their current status with the United Kingdom," he added.

"They're holding a referendum this year and I hope the president of Argentina will listen to that referendum and recognise it is for the Falkland Islanders to choose their future.

"As long as they choose to stay with the United Kingdom, they have my 100 percent backing."

Barry Elsby, a member of the islands' elected legislative assembly, also rejected Kirchner's demands, saying: "We are not a colony -- our relationship with the United Kingdom is by choice.

"Unlike the government of Argentina, the United Kingdom respects the right of our people to determine our own affairs, a right that is enshrined in the UN Charter and which is ignored by Argentina."

Tensions between Britain and Argentina rose last year on the 30th anniversary of their short but bloody war for control of the islands, which left 255 British soldiers and 649 Argentinian troops dead.

Cameron and Kirchner publicly clashed over the issue at the G20 summit last June in Mexico, and the British prime minister used his recent Christmas message to the Falklands to accuse Argentina of denying islanders their rights.

Kirchner said the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution in 1965 which considered the islands as a case of colonialism and invited Britain and Argentina to hold talks on their disputed claims.

"In the name of the Argentine people, I reiterate our invitation for us to abide by the resolutions of the United Nations," she wrote in the letter, which was copied to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

In her letter, Kirchner accuses Britain of expelling the Argentines from the islands when it took control in 1833 and beginning a "population implantation process similar to that applied to other territories under colonial rule".

She adds that the Falkland issue is "a cause embraced by Latin America and by a vast majority of peoples and governments around the world that reject colonialism".

Kirchner's account of how Britain seized the Falklands differs with that detailed on the Foreign Office website, which suggests London first claimed sovereignty in 1765.

© 2013 AFP

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