Anglo-Argentinian relations will be stifled as long as the UK refuses to engage in talks over the future sovereignty of the Falkland Islands, or if the two sides continue to act as if the war only happened yesterday, has said the Argentine Foreign Minister.
Writing in the Guardian on the 40th anniversary of Argentina’s invasion of the islands in April 1982, Santiago Cafiero called for improved bilateral relations.
In a key statement on Argentina’s coalition government’s thinking on the islands, he said the UK’s treatment of Argentina sometimes resembled that inflicted on a country in breach of basic human rights standards rather than a nation that has been a democracy for 40 years.
He writes: “We believe that no result of war can resolve a dispute recognized by the international community. This would set a dangerous precedent. The 1982 conflict did not change the nature of the dispute between the two countries, which is still awaiting negotiation and resolution.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs also points out that before the surprise invasion of the Argentine dictatorship, there had been negotiations for 16 years on the substance of the sovereignty of the islands which took into account the interests of the inhabitants of the islands.
To pretend that the dispute does not exist or that it does not create obstacles in our bilateral relationship is “naive”, he says.
He insists that “both governments share fundamental values and a vision of a rules-based world order. And yet, in the South Atlantic agenda, we behave as if the conflict took place yesterday.
The Argentine invasion took Whitehall and British intelligence completely by surprise, leading to a panicked and finely balanced debate within the cabinet over the feasibility of sending a task force to liberate the islands, which the Argentine junta thought Margaret Thatcher lacked the resources, resolve, and diplomatic support to do.
Contemporary Argentina is a threat to no one, writes the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and stresses that the continuation of the historical claim to sovereignty in the national constitution is conditioned on its peaceful pursuit.
“Despite this, the UK maintains a major military base in the South Atlantic, conducts periodic military exercises in the disputed area, and maintains restrictions on the sale of dual-use military equipment to Argentina,” he wrote. . He says such restrictions are usually reserved for countries responsible for serious human rights abuses, and finds it “incomprehensible” that such treatment should be reserved for Argentina.
He says his government has come forward with proposals that would be beneficial, such as restoring regular flights between the Falklands and Argentina. “More flights means more trade, more tourism and more dialogue, as we have done in the past,” he says, but so far there has been no clear response from the Kingdom. United to a request to reopen flights.
It also highlights the great strides made by veterans, islanders and the International Committee of the Red Cross in helping to painstakingly identify the bodies of many of the unknown Argentine soldiers who fell during the recapture of the islands by British forces.
“We have also made great progress over the past 40 years in humanitarian terms. We were able to identify the remains of more than 120 Argentine ex-combatants and provide an answer to their families, after so many years of uncertainty.
A third excavation is planned with the help of the Commission of Relatives of the Dead in the Malvinas and the South Atlantic Islands.
The Argentine invasion, initially greeted with patriotic fervor and politically beneficial to the dictatorship, eventually led to the collapse of General Galtieri’s regime as the death toll rose and the lack of training of an army of conscripts from the working class was becoming evident.
A total of 649 Argentine soldiers, 255 British servicemen and three Falkland Islanders died in the conflict. Malvinas veterans, initially ignored, now have more status, with April 2 being a memorial day.
Since the defeat, Argentina has pursued various diplomatic initiatives, including the combative one led by the then president, Néstor Kirchner, from 2003 and then from 2007 by his wife, Cristina. Those 13 years included non-cooperation on hydrocarbons and a ban on ships entering Argentine ports flying the Falkland Islands flag.
A plebiscite on the islands held in 2013 revealed a 99.8 per cent desire to remain British and has been a cornerstone of the UK’s diplomatic stance ever since.
In 2016, Argentina reverted to a more conciliatory approach led by the government of Mauricio Macri, but the former centre-right mayor of Buenos Aires fell from power in 2019 after failing to deliver economic prosperity.