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Britain has rejected the possibility of talks with Argentina about the status of the Falkland Islands the day after Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner announced that her government would lodge a complaint with the United Nations about Britain's "militarization" of their ongoing dispute.
Britain announced last week that it would replace an aging ship patrolling the waters around the Falklands, which lie to the east of Argentina's southern tip, with one of its most modern warships. It also said that Prince William was being deployed there as a search-and-rescue helicopter pilot. Britain claims these waters as its territory.
"There is no other way to interpret the decision to send a destroyer, a huge and modern destroyer, to accompany the royal heir, whom we would have loved to see in civilian clothing instead of a military uniform," Ms. Kirchner said referring to Britain's actions as the "militarization" of the South Atlantic and describing it as a regional and global security issue, Bloomberg reports.
Argentina claims that Britain stole the islands, which Argentines call the Malvinas, almost 200 years ago. The two countries went to war over the Falklands in 1982, after Argentina's military dictatorship launched an invasion. The islands' roughly 3,000 residents are considered British citizens. This April will be the 30th anniversary of the war.
Britain's Foreign Office responded to Kirchner's declaration with a statement. “The people of the Falkland Islands are British out of choice,” the department said in an emailed statement, according to Bloomberg. “They are free to determine their own future, and there will be no negotiations with Argentina on sovereignty unless the Islanders wish it.”
On Jan. 18, Prime Minister David Cameron said Argentina's attitude toward the islands is "like colonialism."
Argentina has recently tried to shore up regional and international support for its claim to the Falklands. The South American trading bloc Mercosur – which counts Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, and Paraguay as members – announced in December that it would close its ports to ships flying the Falklands flag, BBC reports. Chile, the main air transit point for the Falklands, recently declared its support for Argentina's claim. Falklands residents' concerns that Argentina would close its airspace to flights between Chile and the Falklands, however, have not materialized so far, the Guardian reports.
Fernández has mobilised much of South America and the Caribbean in a diplomatic and commercial squeeze. Ships flying the Falklands flag are barred from the region's ports, depriving the islands of bananas and other fresh fruit.
She sought to widen the row by including Spain in the list of British colonial victims. "It is an anachronism in the 21st century to still have colonies, there are only 16 cases in the world, of which 10 are British and we've seen in recent days how the Spanish claim regarding Gibraltar has been renewed."
A summit last week of left-wing Latin American leaders backed Kirchner's campaign. Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez said he would support Argentina in a military conflict if one arose, the Guardian reports.
Kirchner insists that Argentines want talks, not war, over the islands. She has said repeatedly that it was only the military dictatorship at the time, not the public, that wanted the invasion in 1982, according to the Associated Press.
"We continue to assert that you can't blame the Argentine people for a dictatorship's decision, in order to refuse to comply with what the United Nations has ordered, to sit down and negotiate and talk," she said yesterday.
There have always been tensions between Britain and Argentina, but the discovery of oil in the waters off the Falklands's coast has raised the stakes. British companies have lately been working to develop oil there. Kirchner accused Britain of "pillaging our resources" and creating "ecological chaos," The Wall Street Journal reports.