Falklands Row Reopened By President's Letter

David Cameron has dismissed a call by the president of Argentina for Britain to hand back the Falkland Islands.

Cristina Kirchner demanded in an open letter that the Prime Minister abide by UN resolutions to "negotiate a solution" to the row.

But Mr Cameron insisted that the future of the islands was up to the people who live there, not Argentina.

He told the leader that she should "listen" to the result of a referendum due to be held in March.

And he vowed that Falklands residents would have his full backing if they choose to remain British.

"The future of the Falkland Islands should be determined by the Falkland Islanders themselves, the people who live there," he said.

"Whenever they have been asked their opinion, they say they want to maintain their current status with the United Kingdom.

"They're holding a referendum this year and I hope the president of Argentina will listen to that referendum and recognise it is for the Falkland Islanders to choose their future.

"As long as they choose to stay with the United Kingdom they have my 100% backing."

The Foreign Office added that the Falkland Islanders "are British and have chosen to be so".

"They remain free to choose their own futures, both politically and economically, and have a right to self-determination as enshrined in the UN Charter," a spokesman said.

"This is a fundamental human right for all peoples. There are three parties to this debate, not just two as Argentina likes to pretend.

"The islanders can't just be written out of history. As such, there can be no negotiations on the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands unless and until such time as the islanders so wish."

Ms Kirchner made her latest appeal in a letter published in The Guardian and Independent newspapers.

It claimed Argentina had been "forcibly stripped" of the islands her country calls Las Malvinas in a "blatant exercise of 19th-century colonialism".

"The Argentines on the Islands were expelled by the Royal Navy and the United Kingdom subsequently began a population implantation process similar to that applied to other territories under colonial rule," she said.

"Since then, Britain, the colonial power, has refused to return the territories to the Argentine Republic, thus preventing it from restoring its territorial integrity.

"The Question of the Malvinas Islands is also a cause embraced by Latin America and by a vast majority of peoples and governments around the world that reject colonialism."

Ms Kirchner first made calls for the return of the islands during last year's 30th anniversary of the two countries going to war.

She and Mr Cameron also clashed over the issue when they came face-to-face at the G20 summit in Mexico last June.

The Prime Minister rejected her call for negotiations about sovereignty and said she should respect the results of a referendum due in March.

The Falklanders will vote then on whether they wish to retain their ties with Britain.

The Argentine president tried again to push the issue when she appeared at the United Nations, appearing at the annual meeting of the little-known UN Decolonisation Committee on the 30th anniversary of the British victory.

She used the occasion to reiterate Argentina's opposition to any more wars and to criticise the Prime Minister's decision to mark the day by flying the Falklands flag over Number 10.

In December, Argentina protested at Britain's decision to name a vast swathe of Antarctica Queen Elizabeth Land. Its foreign ministry handed a formal protest note to British ambassador John Freeman in Buenos Aires.

The area, which makes up around a third of the British Antarctic Territory, is also claimed by the South American country.

Barry Elsby, a member of the Islands' Legislative Assembly, said: "We understand that the Argentine government has put out a letter that both calls our home a colony and claims that the United Kingdom is ignoring United Nations General Assembly resolutions.

"We are not a colony; our relationship with the United Kingdom is by choice. Unlike the government of Argentina, the United Kingdom respects the right of our people to determine our own affairs, a right that is enshrined in the UN Charter and which is ignored by Argentina."