Britain spurns Argentina's overtures

Britain this past week rejected Argentina's latest proposals for talks over the disputed Falkland Islands because of Argentina's continuing insistence on negotiating sovereignty. British Foreign Office junior minister Tim Eggar branded the Argentine offer as ``an exercise in megaphone diplomacy'' and reaffirmed Britain's refusal to discuss sovereignty.

A Foreign Office spokesman said Britain would send Argentina a formal reply to the proposals, which were delivered in London Nov. 17, in due course.

Argentina offered to declare an end to hostilities in exchange for Britain dropping its 150-mile military protection zone around the South Atlantic islands and entering into talks on all outstanding issues, including sovereignty. (Britain declared the 150-mile fisheries conservation zone around the islands on Oct. 29.)

The Foreign Office spokesman said this amounted to no change in Argentina's position.

``On a reading of the whole document it does appear that sovereignty would have to be discussed in order for the Argentine proposals to come into operation,'' he said. ``If that is not the case, then they should say so clearly.''

Britain has steadfastly refused to negotiate the issue of sovereignty ever since an Argentine invasion force was thrown off the islands in June 1982 by British troops.

The Falklands issue is due to be debated at the United Nations this week and the aide said the Argentine move was clearly aimed at winning propaganda points before the debate.

The Foreign Office spokesman noted that the Argentine call for talks was hinged to a UN resolution which Britain has previously rejected. ``It is all tied up with United Nations resolution 40/21, which calls for negotiation on all matters, and that means sovereignty. Britain will not negotiate on the sovereignty issue,'' he said.

At the UN, Secretary-General Javier P'erez de Cu'ellar said Nov. 18 that recent events showed time was not necessarily working in favor of a peaceful settlement of the Falklands dispute between Argentina and Britain.

``I regret having to report once again that it has not proved possible so far to find common ground to engage the two parties in the kind of talks envisaged in resolution 40/21,'' he said in a written report to the General Assembly.

He was referring to an assembly resolution last November asking him to continue his efforts to help Argentina and Britain initiate negotiations aimed at a peaceful solution of the problems between them, including all aspects regarding the future of the Falklands.

Mr. P'erez de Cu'ellar said he remained convinced that through a process of frank and open dialogue, coupled with confidence-building measures, meaningful progress could be made towards solving all the differences currently separating the two countries.

He reiterated his continued readiness to assist both parties towards that end.

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