U.K., Argentina Trade Diplomatic Barbs Over Falkland Islands

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron and Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner asserted their countries rights to the Falkland Islands as they traded diplomatic barbs across the Atlantic Ocean.

Cameron said he had “robustly defended” Britain’s ownership of the islands at an EU-Latin America summit in Brussels, while Fernandez used a speech in Buenos Aires to accuse the British premier of being “almost rude” when he interrupted her foreign minister during a dinner in Brussels on Wednesday.

“The prime minister robustly defended the Falklands and the islanders’ right to self-determination in response to the Argentine foreign minister raising the issue,” Cameron’s office said in an e-mailed statement. “The prime minister underlined that the islanders had expressed their view in a referendum and that should be respected. He went on to add that the waters around the Falklands were territorial waters and it was unacceptable of Argentina to threaten investors seeking to operate there.”

The two countries have continued to dispute ownership of the islands, which Britain seized back from the Argentinians after they invaded in 1982. Argentina says the islands were wrongly taken from it by Britain in the 19th century. The U.K. said in March that it will spend 180 million pounds ($278 million) over 10 years to modernize its defenses of the archipelago.

Fernandez accused Cameron of talking over her foreign minister, Hector Timerman, when he used remarks at the dinner to assert Argentina’s right to the islands.

Energy companies have been seeking to exploit the oil reserves beneath the islands’ territorial waters and Argentina filed criminal charges in April against five companies it accused of carrying out exploration activity without the permission of Argentina’s Energy Secretariat.

The Falkland islanders voted by 1,513 to 3 in 2013 to stay as a U.K. overseas territory.

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