An Argentinin veteran of the Falklands War looks down at his medals as he holds out a burning Union Jack made of paper during a protest in Buenos Aires. AP Photo
The tiny Falklands Islands will ask 3,000 inhabitants whether they want to stay part of Britain’s self-governing overseas territories in a referendum designed to outflank Argentina’s sovereignty claims to the South Atlantic archipelago.
Britain and Argentina waged a brief war over the disputed islands in 1982 and tensions between the two nations have escalated in the year of the 30th anniversary of the conflict as British companies have started to look for oil in the region, Reuters reported.
“I have no doubt that the people of the Falklands wish for the islands to remain a self-governing Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom,” Gavin Short, chairman of the Falklands Legislative Assembly, said on June 12.
“So we have decided, with the full support of the British Government, to hold a referendum on the Falkland Islands to eliminate any possible doubt about our wishes,” he added.
The vote is expected to take place in the first half of 2013. The announcement dovetailed with a visit to the islands by British Foreign Office Minister Jeremy Browne.
“It will give the Falkland Islands people the opportunity to send a clear message - not just to Argentina, but to the whole of the international community - that the islanders, and they alone, are masters of their fate,” he said.
“Only the Falkland Islands people can determine how they wish to be governed.”
Argentina’s President Cristina Kirchner will be at the U.N. headquarters in New York today to push Buenos Aires’ claim to the islands at the annual U.N. decolonization committee hearings, Agence France-Presse reported.
The visit is unusual as the committee is normally the preserve of lower-level diplomats, but Argentina has been building up its diplomatic campaign in recent months.
The U.N. committee routinely urges Britain to decolonize. Britain is not a member of the committee and refuses to make submissions to its hearings on the islands.