Falklands Row: Groundhog Day As Row Goes On

Tim Marshall, Foreign Affairs Editor
Falklands Row: Groundhog Day As Row Goes On

The visit by the Argentinian foreign minister to the UK was an excellent opportunity for both sides to rehearse their respective positions on the issue of the Falkland’s islands.

And so it has come to pass. 

Because it is the 180th anniversary of the islands being "forcibly taken" - in Argentina's version of events - Buenos Aires requested a bi-lateral meeting between foreign ministers Hector Timerman and William Hague during Mr Timerman's visit to the UK next week.

The Foreign Office accepted and invited Mr Timerman along for a chat, adding that representatives from the Falkland Islands government would be attending as well.

The representatives made it clear that they would be making some forceful remarks and that if the issue of sovereignty came up, it would not be discussed.

The Foreign Office will have known that this would be the position.

The next move was obvious.

Mr Timerman declined the invitation saying: "The international community does not recognise a third party in this dispute." 

Job done - by both sides.

The moves can be translated as Argentina coming to bolster its position that the two countries should negotiate how to "return" the islands to Buenos Aires.

London, meanwhile, has taken the opportunity to re-enforce its position that the wishes of the islanders must be taken into consideration.

That has been the case for decades, and will remain so. The positions are fixed and repeated several times each year.

The previous occasion was early last month when Argentina's President, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, took out full page advertisements in newspapers to declare that the islands were called the Malvinas, belonged to her country, were taken by an act of colonialism, and should be returned through negotiation. 

Prime Minister David Cameron responded that the wishes of the Falkland islanders had to be taken into consideration.

Next week will see these arguments laid out again, when Mr Timerman holds a press conference at the Argentinian embassy, but not at the Foreign Office.

Once he has gone home, each side will begin planning for how they will repeat the arguments in March when the islanders hold a referendum on their future in which they will vote overwhelmingly to remain under British jurisdiction.

And so it will go on. 

Argentina will continue to make life as difficult as they can for the islanders, cutting transport links and sending fleets of trawlers towards it waters etc.

The UK will continue to develop its oil interests in those same waters, confident that the sections of public opinion that care about the issue support its position.

The status quo was changed though an act of violence by Argentina 31 years ago. Short of a repeat, which is almost unthinkable, the status quo will remain.