Falkland Islands fury: Argentina rages at being ‘unlawfully’ excluded from huge operation

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During the conflict, forces commanded by former dictator General Leopoldo Galtieri laid roughly 30,000 mines in a bid to deter UK forces sent to reclaim the British Overseas Territory after Argentina invaded in 1982. Many of them were removed in the immediate aftermath of the conflict – but after a series of accidents, operations ceased and the minefields were fenced off.

A UK-funded programme which began in 2009 has now finished its dangerous mission to de-mine the islands in the South Atlantic three years ahead of schedule.

The removal of the remaining mines laid during the 1982 conflict with Argentina means the UK has now met its obligations set by the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention.

However, the success of the operation failed to impress Daniel Filmus, Secretary of the Malvinas, Antarctica and South Atlantic islands.

For the Argentine Republic this process had to be done jointly

Daniel Filmus

Mr Filmus accused the UK of “unlawfully” excluding his country from the demining process in what Argentina calls the Malvinas Islands, in a move he claimed was a “new violation” of the United Nations resolution 3149, which urges the parties to refrain from taking any unilateral action in disputed territories.

He explained: “For the Argentine Republic this process had to be done jointly.

“In fact, based on the agreements for the exchange of notes that Argentina and the United Kingdom made under the sovereignty formula, in October 2001 and in August 2006, a feasibility study was agreed for the removal of landmines in the Malvinas.”

Mr Filmus insisted the study was “approved by both governments and presented at the Eighth Meeting of States Parties to the Ottawa Convention”, held in Jordan in 2007.

In launching the programme in 2009, the UK had opted “not to comply with the commitments it had assumed” and to undertake de-mining tasks on its own “without the participation of Argentina”, Mr Filmus added.

He further claimed the resolution includes “illegal fishing, the exploitation of hydrocarbons, the installation of the British military base in the Islands and demining”.

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He said: “The same year when the United Kingdom announces the presentation of the final demining report in the Islands, Argentina offers the possibility of doing it jointly so that this report is also verified by the Argentine side, but no answer yet.”

There were two “very clear” UN mandates that the British Government was ignoring, Mr Filmus claimed: resolution 2065, which indicates that the only permanent and peaceful solution to the sovereignty dispute is bilateral dialogue, and resolution 3149, which made both the military base, the exploitation of natural resources and demining “illegitimate”.

He said: “Argentina hopes that the final evaluation can be made in a shared way and in this way meet the humanitarian objective of demining and that the United Kingdom hears the call of the UN and many countries of the world to resume negotiations on the sovereignty.”

Speaking earlier this week, a Government spokesman said the removal of the mines laid during the 1982 conflict with Argentina meant the UK had now met its obligations set by the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention.

Minister Wendy Morton, UK Minister with responsibility for the Falklands, said: “This is a huge achievement for the Islands and we must pay tribute to the brilliant team of deminers who put their lives at risk day to day removing and destroying landmines to make the Falklands safe.

“Our commitment to ridding the world of fatal land mines does not end with our territories being mine free.

“A further £36 million of UK funding will allow demining projects across the world to continue, protecting innocent civilian lives.”

A referendum on the subject of sovereignty held in 2013 saw 99.8 percent of the 1,518 voters who took part opt to retain links with the UK, with a total of three people voting against, with a 92 percent turnout.

The Falklands will be officially declared landmine free on Saturday during a local celebration.

There will also be an official celebration hosted by the UK at Government House on Monday (November 17) during which the deminers will be presented with certificates signed by Ms Morton.

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