The current situation of conflict between Argentina and the United Kingdom with regard to the Malvinas Islands – which the British have called the Falklands since invading in 1833 – has a history of claims and counter-claims that have had various tones and even reached armed confrontation in 1982 without a final solution.
Today, the underlying issue -the sovereignty of the islands- remains unresolved. The latest ruling by the United Nations, in summary, has three pillars: continuity of diplomatic negotiations; recognition of solely two authorized parties -the two States and not three by the inclusion of islands as GB attempted- and the demand that the parties not take any unilateral actions until resolution of the underlying issue.
What has occurred recently relates to the decision by the government of the United Kingdom to unilaterally authorize companies to exploit the natural resources. That is the offshore exploration of the continental shelf.
Argentina’s response has been a presidential decree requiring “any ship that sails to or from the islands from national ports or crosses the Argentine Sea bound for them, requires the prior permission of the national government.” It is a policy decision that affects the commercial and economic interests of those companies that will carryout the exploration.
In turn, the Argentine Ministry of Foreign Affairs will present the case to the United Nations next Wednesday in New York in order to make clear the Argentine position “regarding unilateral actions of the United Kingdom with respect to the Malvinas Islands”. Jorge Taiana will request the intervention of UN Secretary-General, Ban-Ki Moon, in order that the resolutions of that international organization be fulfilled.
The diplomatic moves follow the presentation of the issue at a meeting of the Rio Group of foreign ministers in Mexico this weekend, seeking regional support for Argentina. The President will participate in the summit of the Group next week.
The Argentine government has acted quickly “in defence of its national interests and rights”, and has hit the jackpot by adding an economic focus to the diplomatic one. The interest in the Islands’ oil relates to its high price which today is around US$77 per barrel, but which is projected to be at around US$100 by the end of the year. Initially, these prices justified the expense of offshore exploration which is the most expensive method. However, as a result of not being able to use Argentine ports, the expense will increase and that may deter an activity which, in any case, seeks economic profit. Similarly, one should not disregard trade sanctions. In fact, the Financial Times of yesterday, Wednesday, reports that shares in the company Desire Petroleum, head of the group of companies involved, have declined on the London Stock Exchange as a result of the increase in the risk level.
The British, especially the Conservatives -traditionally colonialists- back these decisions while the Prime Minister and members of the Labour party are resisting augmenting the intensity of the conflict with Argentina. Gordon Brown is thinking of the elections in May -two months away- and does not want any waves. Most importantly, he does not want to distract military forces because the British government is already deeply mired in expense and highly unpopular due to the presence of British troops in Afghanistan. Nevertheless, one cannot disregard the possibility of new provocations arising on the part of the United Kingdom which supports the politics of “fait accompli” while Argentina responds in defence of its rights. However, we know that force matters more in the international arena -a scenario for maximum violence- proof of which is the repeated breach of United Nations resolutions by the military powers.
2010 may be the tensest year in Argentine-British relations since the armed conflict, and the Argentine government had better demonstrate the mettle necessary to place its actions within a non-violent framework.
*(Translation provided by Iuslingua LLC)*