Argentina’s foreign minister asked the head of the United Nations on Wednesday to help resolve a dispute with Britain over a vast swath of the southern Atlantic Ocean where Britain has begun drilling for oil.
Following a meeting with U.N. Secretary—General Ban Ki—moon at U.N. headquarters, Foreign Minister Jorge Taiana, told reporters Mr. Ban was not happy tensions have worsened because of Britain’s decision to start drilling and was willing to continue his “good offices” mission.
A statement issued later by Mr. Ban’s office said the secretary—general “took note of Argentina’s concerns” in the meeting with Mr. Taiana.
“The secretary—general expressed satisfaction at Argentina’s commitment to resolving its dispute with the United Kingdom over the islands in a peaceful manner,” the statement added. “He reiterated that his good offices are available when requested by all parties in a dispute.”
The U.N. General Assembly called for Argentina and Britain to negotiate sovereignty over the islands following a brief 1982 war for control, which Britain won.
Britain has ruled out any concessions involving the islands that its people have occupied since the early 1800s.
“As British ministers have made clear, the UK has no doubt about its sovereignty over the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the Sandwich Islands,” British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant, said in a statement.
“This position is underpinned by the principle of self—determination as set out in the U.N. Charter. We are also clear that the Falkland Islands government is entitled to develop a hydrocarbons industry within its waters, and we support this legitimate business in Falklands’ territory.”
Mr. Taiana called Britain’s oil—drilling operation “an illegal act that goes against international law and against express U.N. resolutions asking that neither side take unilateral actions that could aggravate the situation.”
The foreign minister reiterated Argentina’s position that the islands are part of the South American country’s territory and that the islands’ residents, who strongly favour retaining ties to Britain, do not have the unilateral right to decide what they want the islands to be.
The issue heated up this week when Argentine President Cristina Fernandez, protested the start of British oil drilling near the Falklands, calling it “robbery.” She had already imposed restrictions on ships that pass through seas near the islands - but Britain told its ship captains to ignore them.
Argentina’s call for negotiations won support this week at a summit of every country in the Western Hemisphere save the U.S. and Canada. The leaders meeting in Mexico backed “the legitimate rights of the Argentine Republic,” but stopped short of directly endorsing its claim to sovereignty. Their resolution also did not specifically mention oil drilling.
Brazilian President Inacio Lula da Silva, criticized the United Nations for not pushing more forcefully to reopen the Falklands debate.
“What is the geographic, the political or economic explanation for England to be in Las Malvinas?” Mr. Silva asked, using Argentina’s name for the islands. “Could it be because England is a permanent member of the U.N.’s Security Council (where) they can do everything and the others nothing?”
U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley, said on Tuesday that Washington is “neutral on the question of sovereignty” but supports “good—faith dialogue between those two countries.”
But people in the Falklands say Argentina is engaging in its own form of colonialism.
Jan Cheek, a member of the islands’ local legislative assembly, said Argentina’s demand for sovereignty talks ignores the self—determination rights of islanders, who clearly want to be British.
“It seems to many of us that Argentina is indulging in a little latter—day colonialism in ignoring our right to self—determination and seeking to make us a colony of Argentina,” Mr. Cheek told The Associated Press.
Mr. Taiana said Argentina will not back down in its fight for the islands.
“We will bring this permanent claim of the government and Argentine people to the most diverse forums possible,” he said.