Argentina calls in British envoy over Falklands energy dispute

LONDON Wed Dec 18, 2013 4:10pm GMT

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LONDON (Reuters) - Argentina summoned Britain's ambassador in Buenos Aires for a meeting about a row over oil and gas drilling in the waters around the disputed Falkland Islands, a British spokeswoman said on Wednesday.

Decades-old tensions between the two countries over the sovereignty of the South Atlantic archipelago have escalated in recent weeks after Argentina introduced a law seeking to block London-listed firms from drilling for oil and gas there.

"Following the UK protest about Argentina's attempt to criminalise hydrocarbons activity around the Falkland Islands, our ambassador to Argentina met Deputy Foreign Minister (Eduardo) Zuain yesterday," a Foreign Office spokeswoman said.

The Argentine embassy in London said in a statement that Zuain had summoned the ambassador to reject a British complaint over the hydrocarbons law.

Argentina defended the validity of its legislation, saying Britain was relying on "purported rights" over the Malvinas - the name Argentines use for the Falkland Islands, a British Overseas Territory.

"The Argentine Government rejects the attempt by the United Kingdom to promote and authorise the exploration and exploitation of renewable and non-renewable natural resources in the area subject to the sovereignty dispute," a letter from the Argentine government given to the British ambassador said.

On Tuesday, Mark Simmonds, a British Foreign Office minister, accused Argentina of talking up the sovereignty dispute to distract voters from domestic economic problems before an election in 2015.

(Reporting by William James; Editing by Andrew Osborn and Alistair Lyon)

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