Falklands: Historian says Belgrano ‘was legal’
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Alberto Fernandez’s remarks follow those of the Argentine foreign minister last week, who accused Britain of “double standards” in its posture towards the islands when contrasted with its support for Ukraine. The latest diplomatic charge against the UK comes as the South American nation marked 40 years since its armed forces attempted to annex the islands.
Argentina has never officially owned the islands, which were uninhabited before being settled on by British, French and Spanish colonisers.
The British re-asserted rule of the islands in 1832, following Argentine attempts to install a garrison there. Argentina has contested a claim to the Falkland Islands ever since, attempting an invasion in 1982.
The Argentine Government is so convinced of its claim to the Falklands it has a dedicated minister for their affairs. It describes the official Falkland Islands Government as “illegitimate”.
According to Argentine news outlet Grupo La Provincia, Mr Fernandez said on Friday that “every Argentine knows that we have an inalienable right over the Malvinas Islands” – its name for the Falklands.
Speaking during a ceremony in Ushuaia, a coastal city on the southern tip of the continent close to the border with Chile, the Argentine President maintained his country would never stop asserting its sovereignty over the islands.
Mr Fernandez reportedly added: “We will never stop claiming them. We will insist through diplomatic channels, but we will never stop doing so.”
The President’s remarks echoed those of his defence minister, Jorge Taiana, when he spoke on board an icebreaker near Ushuaia alongside a contingent of survivors from the General Belgrano on Tuesday.
There, he said his Government would “persist” and “create the conditions” to necessitate negotiations.
According to Ambito, an Argentine newspaper, Mr Taiana said the UK had fallen foul of contradictory foreign policy.
He said the UK Government’s posture was it “cannot negotiate [ownership of the Falkland Islands] because the self-determination of the islanders must be respected”.
In March 2013, the Falkland Islands held a referendum on its status. 99.8 percent of inhabitants polled voted in favour of remaining a British overseas territory.
However, Mr Taiana said this went against the UK’s support for Ukrainian sovereignty over the Donbas region – which since 2014 has been attempting to break away, and was the reason given by Russian President Vladimir Putin for his invasion of the country.
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The minister added: “When it comes to Ukraine it turns out that there is no question of self-determination for the Ukrainians of the Donbas, who do not seem to want to belong to Ukraine, and that is an issue that cannot be touched.
“It seems that the territorial integrity for Ukraine is valid there, which they do not respect for Argentina.”
Mr Fernandez is expected to pay tribute to the sailors who died in the sinking of the Argentine warship the General Belgrano, which was sunk on May 2, 1982.
Despite the massive loss of life incurred by Argentine forces during the war, the country’s ministry of foreign affairs said on the 40th anniversary of its sinking that it would “not give up until the Argentine flag rises again in the Islands”.
Mr Fernandez said on Friday: “I want to offer my gratitude and all my respect to those who fought on the islands.”
The sinking of the Belgrano attracted criticism at the time, as the vessel had been hit outside the British exclusion zone it had put in place around the islands.
However, military historians say naval chiefs believed the submarine that had been tailing the cruiser may have been caught in a pincer movement by other approaching Argentine ships.
Two days later, the Argentine military sank the HMS Sheffield with Exocet missiles, causing outrage and condemnation in the UK.
In the past week, France has faced calls to come clean about the existence of a potential “kill switch” which would have neutralised the missiles, something previously unknown to British forces.
According to the Telegraph, a French official admitted that they had a device which could stop the Exocet missiles it had sold Argentina, but had not told Britain about its existence.
Additional reporting by Maria Ortega
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