U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron rebuffed a call by Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner to hand over the Falkland Islands, 31 years after the two countries went to war over the South Atlantic archipelago.
“The future of the Falkland Islands should be determined by the Falkland Islanders themselves, the people who live there,” Cameron told reporters today in Preston, northwest England. “They’re holding a referendum this year and I hope the president of Argentina will listen to that referendum and recognize it is for the Falkland Islanders to choose their future, and as long as they choose to stay with the United Kingdom they have my 100 percent backing.”
In an open letter to Cameron published today in U.K. and U.S. newspapers, Fernandez said he should abide by a 1960 United Nations resolution urging member states to “end colonialism in all its forms and manifestations.” Britain should begin negotiations over the sovereignty of the islands, which were “forcibly stripped” from Argentina exactly 180 years ago, on Jan. 3, 1833, she told the prime minister.
The two countries went to war in 1982 after Argentine forces invaded the Falklands, which Argentina calls the Malvinas. Tensions heightened last year, with Argentina protesting the U.K.’s deployment of a modern warship to the region.
“The question of the Malvinas is also a cause embraced by Latin America and by a vast majority of peoples and governments around the world that reject colonialism,” Fernandez wrote. The Falklands are situated 14,000 kilometers (8,700 miles) away from London, she wrote.
Fernandez’s letter follows Britain’s decision last month to name a territory in the Antarctic after Queen Elizabeth II, as part of celebrations over her 60 years on the throne. Argentina, which lays claim to the land, said the decision was a provocative act.
“The people of the Falklands are British and have chosen to be so,” the U.K. Foreign Office said in an e-mailed statement. “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.”
The islands provided the spark for a confrontation between Cameron and Fernandez at a meeting of Group of 20 leaders in June. Cameron approached Fernandez at the talks in the Mexican resort of Los Cabos, telling her that she should “respect the views” of the islanders, according to Alfredo Scoccimarro, a spokesman for Fernandez. She responded by trying to hand him an envelope stuffed with UN resolutions on the islands, Scoccimarro said.