Why Does Argentina Want The Falklands – And What Does That Mean For The UK?
Stanley, Falkland Islands
The Falkland Islands have hit headlines as Argentina has just signalled that it has plans to renew its bid to reclaim the land.
While this may all seem a bit too far away for the UK government to be involved, the islands actually are a British Overseas Territory which the UK waged a war to defend just 41 years ago.
So, this declaration from Argentina could be able to herald in a new phase for the turbulent relationship between Buenos Aires and London.
Here’s what you need to know.
What are the Falkland Islands?
The islands, known as Malvinas in Spanish, sit off the coast of Argentina in the south-west Atlantic Ocean, but have been controlled by the UK since 1833.
What was the Falklands war?
Argentina contested British rule over the islands by launching an invasion in 1982 when the country was run by a military dictatorship.
It said that it had inherited the Falkland Islands from Spain in the 1800s – but then-PM Margaret Thatcher opposed this, and so ordered her troops to war.
In the bloody battle, 649 Argentinian soldiers, 255 UK servicemen and three women who lived on the island all died across just 74 days.
The UK declared victory on June 14, 1982 – but Argentina has never renounced its claim over the islands.
The Royal Marine garrison of the Falkland Islands evicted by the Argentine invaders, with the Falkland Islands flag after the Argentine surrender, June 1982
Why does Argentina want the Falklands?
Argentina’s ambassador to the UK Javier Figueroa told PA News agency last year, on the 40th anniversary of the war, that it remains a “deeply emotional issue” for his country.
He added that while sovereignty over the Falklands is not really a visible issue in the UK, it is still “an open wound”.
He said: “The Malvinas question is the highest priority of my country in foreign policy.”
“It’s unbelievable that after 40 years we have a situation like North Korea/South Korea in the South Atlantic, which is ridiculous,” Figueroa said.
Falkland islanders actually voted to remain a UK Overseas Territory by a margin of 99.8% in 2013 – out of the 1,517 votes cast, only three were against it.
However, some Argentinians argued that it is the land the country wants, the territory, not the population.
As Argentine president Alberto Fernandez noted in the UN General Assembly speech last September: “I wish to reaffirm the legitimate and imprescriptible sovereignty rights of Argentina over the Malvinas, South Georgia, South Sandwich Islands and adjoining maritime spaces.
“They are Argentine national territory and are illegally occupied by the United Kingdom, since almost 190 years.”
He also claimed the UK was not listening in bids for re-negotiation, and it “has aggravated the controversy with the call for the illegal exploitation of natural renewable and non renewable resources in the area”.
What is the ‘agree to disagree’ pact?
In 2016, both the UK and Argentina agreed to disagree about who actually ruled over the islands.
But, they said they would cooperate on energy, shipping and fishing and other issues which involved both sides in an effort to “improve co-operation on South Atlantic issues of mutual interests”.
So what just happened?
At G20 talks on Thursday, in New Delhi, Argentina said it was not sticking by the pact.
Argentinian foreign minister Santiago Cafiero told UK foreign secretary James Cleverly the news, later explaining in tweets that Argentina wants to resume negotiations over sovereignty with the United Nations in New York.
Cleverly replied on Twitter: “The Falkland Islands are British.
“Islanders have the right to decide their own future – they have chosen to remain a self-governing UK overseas territory.”
It came as the UK minister for the Americas, David Rutley, was visiting Buenos Aires for a “productive meeting”.
Expressing disappointment at Argentina’s decision, Rutley said: “Argentina has chosen to step away from an agreement that has brought comfort to the families of those who died in the 1982 conflict.”
“Argentina, the UK and the Falklands all benefited from this agreement,” Rutley claimed.
The Falkland Islands are British.
Islanders have the right to decide their own future - they have chosen to remain a self-governing UK Overseas Territory. https://t.co/UTpiyJ74LN
— James Cleverly🇬🇧 (@JamesCleverly) March 2, 2023
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Argentina had no plans to renew its bid to reclaim the Falklands. This has been updated.