Britain and Argentina on Monday observed the 30th anniversary of the Falklands war amid renewed diplomatic tensions between the two countries over their rival territorial claims.
Both claim sovereignty over the islands, controlled by Britain since 1833, and fought a 74-day war in 1982 that Argentina lost leading to the collapse of its ruling military dictatorship while giving a huge political boost to the then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
On Monday, both sides re-asserted their positions with British Prime Minister David Cameron rejecting Argentinian calls for negotiations saying it was for the islanders to decide their future.
“Britain remains staunchly committed to upholding the right of the Falkland Islanders, and of the Falkland Islanders alone, to determine their own future. That was the fundamental principle that was at stake 30 years ago: and that is the principle which we solemnly reaffirm today,” he said as British war veterans and families of those who died gathered at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire to pay their respects.
In Argentina, President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner led tributes to the Argentinian servicemen who died, and renewed calls for negotiations to resolve the dispute.
Argentina has protested to the United Nations accusing Britain of “militarising” the region by deploying one of its most modern Navy ships, HMS Dauntless, to the South Atlantic, off the Falklands. It has also banned Falklands-flagged ships from docking in its ports and threatened to legal action against companies involved in oil exploration in the region.
Argentina, which calls the islands Las Malvinas, says it inherited them from Spain. It has the backing of its regional allies including Brazil, Chile and Uruguay.
In a show of solidarity, member-countries of the South American trading bloc, Mercosur, have also closed their ports to ships flying the Falkland Islands flag.
While ratcheting up their respective positions, both sides however sought to play down fears of another military conflict.