Argentina has notified the United Kingdom that it has unilaterally ended a 2016 pact regarding the disputed Malvinas (Falkland) Islands, a move British officials described as "disappointing."
During a meeting on the sidelines of the G20 Foreign Ministers’ Summit in New Delhi, India, Foreign Minister Santiago Cafiero formally notified his British counterpart James Cleverly that Argentina was terminating the September 2016 joint communiqué known as the so-called ‘Foradori-Duncan’ pact,.
In a post on Twitter, Cafiero also said that Argentina’s government had proposed “resuming negotiations on the sovereignty issue” and called for a meeting at the United Nations headquarters in New York.
The minister said he proposed "an agenda of issues that, as a minimum, should be part of the negotiation process that we are promoting” and said his government is “complying with the mandate of the General Assembly and the United Nations Decolonisation Committee," he said.
Reacting to the news, the UK expressed its disappointment and rejected the invitation to resume negotiations on the sovereignty of the islands.
"The Falkland Islands are British," Cleverly responded on Twitter quoting Cafiero's thread.
"Islanders have the right to decide their own future – they have chosen to remain a self-governing UK Overseas Territory," he added.
The decision was announced just as Britain's minister for the Americas, David Rutley, was visiting Buenos Aires for what he called "productive" meetings.
"Argentina has chosen to step away from an agreement that has brought comfort to the families of those who died in the 1982 conflict," Rutley tweeted, calling the decision "disappointing".
"Argentina, the UK and the Falklands all benefited from this agreement," he argued.
Britain's Ambassador in Buenos Aires, Kirsty Hayes, also expressed her disappointment at the decision to cancel the "historic and important agreement."
Pact or deal?
The pact between the two governments was signed back in 2016, during former president Mauricio Macri’s 2015-2019 government. It was inked by then-deputy foreign minister Carlos Foradori and the UK’s then-minister of state for Europe and the Americas, Alan Duncan.
In that document, the two sides agreed to disagree about sovereignty, but to cooperate on issues such as energy, shipping and fishing, and on identifying the remains of unknown Argentine soldiers who died in the 1982 South Atlantic War.
Argentina’s current government, however, believes the agreement is “detrimental" to Argentina's historic sovereignty claim over the islands, diplomatic sources briefed.
The pact "made concessions to British interests with respect to the exploitation of Argentine natural resources in the region and significantly set back the just claim for sovereignty, as well as authorising air connections between the islands and third countries," said one Foreign Ministry source, who requested anonymity.
Moreover, the agreement took the form of a "joint communiqué," which meant that it did not require the approval of Argentina’s Congress, which is obligatory for international agreements, they added.
The note delivered by Cafiero to Cleverly stated that "Argentina has sought to collaborate on concrete matters such as flights, scientific activity in Antarctica or conservation and preservation of fishing resources, 'without the willingness shown by Argentina having been reciprocated by your government'," a Foreign Ministry statement said.
"The United Kingdom has continuously carried out unilateral acts, which have been timely and duly protested by the Argentine Republic. Throughout this time, the British government has systematically refused to resume the sovereignty negotiations repeatedly urged by the United Nations," the official note said.
Argentina, then under a military dictatorship, and Britain fought a brief war in 1982 over sovereignty of the islands. After 74 days of fighting that left 649 Argentines and 255 British soldiers dead, London regained control of the South Atlantic archipelago it has occupied since 1833.
Forty years later, the claim to sovereignty over the Malvinas is still active, uniting Argentines for whom the war remains an open wound.
A 1965 United Nations resolution requires Argentina and the UK to enter into direct negotiations over the sovereignty of the islands, which has been disputed since 1833.
However, London has refused to open talks, saying it cannot start such negotiations because the population of the islands voted overwhelmingly in a referendum in 2013 in favour of retaining membership of the British crown.
The UK government therefore argues that any talks must be approved by the inhabitants of the islands, an argument rejected by Buenos Aires.