BRITISH PRIME MINISTER David Cameron has today dismissed a renewed call by Argentine President Cristina Kirchner for Britain to return the disputed Falkland Islands.
Cameron’s official spokesman said the 3,000 residents of the South Atlantic archipelago “have a clear desire to remain British” and would have a chance to express their views in a referendum on their political status.
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 180 years ago today “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.
The ‘interests of the Falkland islands’
However, Cameron’s spokesman said it was up to the residents themselves to decide on their future, adding that the prime minister would “do everything to protect the interests of the Falkland islanders”.
“The people of the Falklands have a clear desire to remain British and the Argentine government should respect their right to self-determination,” he said.
The residents “will have a right to show that or otherwise in their own referendum this year”, the spokesman added.
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 Argentine 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 the Falklands became British differs with that detailed on the Foreign Office website, which suggests London first claimed sovereignty in 1765.