Oil fuels British-Argentine standoff over Falklands

LONDON Wed Feb 6, 2013 5:47pm GMT

Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman speaks during a news conference at the residence of the Argentine ambassador in London February 6, 2013. REUTERS/Andrew Winning

Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman speaks during a news conference at the residence of the Argentine ambassador in London February 6, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Andrew Winning

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LONDON (Reuters) - Argentina stepped up its row with Britain over the Falklands on Wednesday with its foreign minister thanking God for the decline of the British Empire and vowing to prosecute oil firms exploring off the remote South Atlantic islands.

In a defiant news conference, held in London but conducted in Spanish, Hector Timerman called Britain the "greatest colonial empire from the 19th century ... that thank God has been defeated worldwide".

He insisted the islands' roughly 3,000 British inhabitants should not be referred to as Falklanders, but as "British inhabitants of the Malvinas islands", the name Argentina uses for the remote territory some 300 miles off its coast.

Timerman has refused to meet British Foreign Secretary William Hague to discuss the islands because of Britain's insistence that Falklands residents be present, part of what London says is their right to self-determination, but a condition Timerman referred to as an "ultimatum".

"The United Nations is very clear. Self-determination applies to a native people, not to people that have been implanted," he said at a news conference titled "Meeting of European Pro-Dialogue Groups on the Malvinas Question".

"I have left an invitation for him (Hague) to go to Buenos Aires without any ultimatum, without any conditions so that we can meet as two friendly countries for dialogue," he added, speaking through a translator at the ambassador's residence.

Britain fought a 10-week war to eject Argentinian forces who invaded the islands in 1982. The Falklands are part of Britain's self-governing territories, and Buenos Aires has ramped up efforts to stake its claim to the territory as London-listed firms seek to tap oil and gas deposits around the islands.

Timerman arrived in London this week to make the case for Argentine ownership of the islands, but has met a mostly hostile response, with British lawmakers on Tuesday accusing him of "megaphone diplomacy" and using "offensive" arguments.

Hague said it was a shame Timerman was unwilling to attend a meeting with him and Falkland Island representatives.

"There is no way such a conversation could have taken place without members of the Falkland Islands government being present, especially given the current Argentine government's behaviour towards the Islanders. It is, and must always be, for them to decide their own future," Hague said in a statement.

A referendum on the Falklands' future is scheduled for March, a vote in which the islanders are almost certain to choose to remain British, and which Timerman likened to asking Israeli settlers whether they want to be Israeli or Palestinian.

"STEALING" RESOURCES

Timerman, 59, batted away suggestions from British reporters that Argentina was also a colonial power, its settler pioneers having colonised land once belonging to indigenous Indians, a comparison Timerman labelled "audacious".

On Tuesday he ruled out any future military efforts to seize the Falklands, but said he was confident negotiations would lead to Argentine ownership of the islands within 20 years.

Argentina has tried to deter ships from travelling to the Falklands, banning Falklands-flagged ships and other vessels involved in trade with the islands from stopping at its ports.

On Wednesday Timerman vowed to take legal action to stop energy firms from exploring for oil and gas around the islands, accusing them of stealing Argentine resources and not being capable of guarding against accidental oil spills.

"We will continue the legal action against the oil companies who are doing hydrocarbon-related exploration activities in the south Atlantic, because they are stealing part of the natural resources of Argentina," he said.

Argentine hostility has not deterred companies and the islands are set to start producing their first oil in 2017. Rockhopper Exploration has formed a $1 billion partnership with Premier Oil to pump oil from its find north of the islands.

Last month, another British firm, Borders and Southern Petroleum, said its gas condensate discovery in the Falkland Islands was also commercially viable.

(Editing by Jon Hemming)

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Comments (3)
Raymond.Vermont wrote:
The fact remains that any inhabitants upon the Falklands/Malvinas would be of an ‘implanted’ nature, as it (the Islands) have no aboriginal history to there land masses.

Feb 06, 2013 11:56pm GMT  --  Report as abuse
Stu255 wrote:
Argentina and the Falkland Islands entered a bilateral agreement in 1999 to share the exploration of hydrocarbons around the Falkland Islands.

However in 2007 Argentina tore up the agreement.

The Falklands went on to continue hydrocabon exploration on their own and since 2010 there have been half a dozen oil discoveries in the waters around the Falkland islands.

Now Argentina claims the Falkland Islands don’t exist?? (even though they have recently had treaties with them) ??

Argentina just want the oil. They’re not interested in the people, in fact, they claim the people don’t exist?? Dangerous talk from a country where thousands of people we “disappeared” over the decades.

Feb 07, 2013 7:58am GMT  --  Report as abuse
2writestoo wrote:
To Raymond Vermont> Archaeological evidence has been uncovered on West Falkland (a canoe and other materials) that have been attributed to the “Yaghan People” who came from the region of Terra del Fuago. Comparisons of the artefacts were made with those found at “The Bahia Wulaia Dome Middens ,” a prehistoric Mesolithic seasonal habitation site of the Yaghan people situated on Isla Navarino along the Beagle Channel in the Patagonian Archipelago region of Chile. So the evidence suggests that a settlement of the “Yaghan people” existed as an indigenous people over 6,000 years ago on the Falkland’s The total demise of the Yagan came about during the second half of the 19th century when the archipelago began to come under Chilean and Argentine influence. Gold had been discovered in flat bed streams on the islands and both Chile and Argentina disregarded the rights of the Yaghan and colonized the Islands. The mitigation offered was that the claim to the whole archipelago was based on de jure Spanish colonial titles .According to the Boundary treaty of 1881 Tierra del Fuego was divided between Argentina and Chile; previously it was claimed by both countries in its entirety. However the dispute as to who holds the colonial rights to the archipelago goes on after a war between Chile and Argentina was narrowly averted just prior to the Argentine/ British conflict. The point; Argentina makes much of British colonialism yet they seem not to object to decimating and making extinct (by colonization) a people who had resided continually on lands for over six thousand years. If allowed to do so the Argentineans may possibly try to do the same to the Faulklanders as they did to the Yaghan People, yet by more devious means.

Feb 07, 2013 3:40pm GMT  --  Report as abuse
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