As the 30th anniversary of Argentina’s invasion approaches, rhetoric between the UK and Argentina is warming up over the Falkland islands again, as the South American nation eyes mineral and oil rights it believes are its own.
The discovery of oil off the islands, which analysts estimate could bring in up to $167 billion in taxes and royalties in the best case scenario, has raised the stakes.
Argentina said on Thursday it would take legal action against any company involved in oil exploration off the islands it calls the Malvinas, in a drive to pressure Britain into sovereignty talks.
A spokeswoman for Prime Minister David Cameron called the Argentine move “regrettable” and the foreign ministry said the Falklands were entitled to develop oil resources without interference.
“From harassing Falklands shipping to threatening the islanders’ air links with Chile, Argentina’s efforts to intimidate the Falklands are illegal, unbecoming and wholly counter-productive,” a Foreign Office spokeswoman said.
Britain has taken the enlightened view (for once, and because it entirely suits its purposes) that the islanders should determine their own fate.
The UK says there will be no negotiations on sovereignty as long as the Falkland islanders wish to remain British.
Mr Cameron said: “The people of the Falkland Islands could not be clearer that they want to continue their status as an overseas territory of the United Kingdom.
“As long as they want that, that is not going to change.”
Exploratory drilling is continuing regardless. For America’s part, Cameron told reporters that during his meeting with Obama, the president made clear that the US was content with the status quo, under which the islands remain a British territory.
I don’t expect the jaw-jaw to turn into war-war anytime in the forseeable future, but you can never be 100 percent sure and Britain certainly wouldn’t have the wherewithall anymore to go take the islands back if Argentina invaded again. Just one of those potential world flashpoints its worth keeping a bit of an eye on.