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WORLD | 19-02-2024 22:33

‘Provocation’ – Argentine governors slam British foreign secretary's Malvinas visit

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron says London will never prioritise relations with Argentina over islanders' wishes in visit to Malvinas; Tierra del Fuego Province Governor Gustavo Melella condemns "provocation," but Javier Milei's government remains silent.

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron visited the Malvinas (Falkland) Islands on Monday, telling residents that he hopes they remain “forever” with the United Kingdom and prompting claims of "provocation" from Argentine governors. 

Cameron said he was visiting the South Atlantic archipelago – which was at the centre of a bloody 1982 war between the two nations – to make clear the territory was "a valued part of the British family." It was the first such trip in three decades to the islands.

Britain's Press Association reported Cameron as saying Britain would "help protect and defend" the islands for as long as they want to be "part of the UK family."

"And I hope that's for a very, very long time, possibly forever," he added.

The former UK prime minister’s visit to the islands was dubbed a "provocation" by Governor Gustavo Melella of Argentina's Tierra del Fuego, Antarctica and Southern Atlantic Islands Province, which includes the islands on its map.

Mellela said the official’s presence "constitutes a new British provocation that seeks to undermine our legitimate sovereign rights over our territories and to sustain colonialism in the 21st century."

He declared Cameron a "persona non grata" in all the nation's territory.

"No colonial representative of a State that attempts against our territorial integrity by sullying the memory and the eternal sacrifice of our Malvinas Heroes will be welcome in our province," wrote the governor.

Buenos Aires Province Governor Axel Kicillof also described the visit as "an act of deep provocation to the memory of our heroes who gave their lives.”

Other provincial leaders, including Gerardo Zamora (Santiago del Estero), Alberto Weretilneck (Río Negro), Ricardo Quintela (La Rioja) and Sergio Ziliotto (La Pampa), also spoke out.

Former foreign minister Santiago Cafiero also expressed his "categorical rejection" of the visit in a post on X.

"This is a new and inadmissible provocation, which has not happened for 30 years, and which must be rejected by the national government," he wrote.

Presidential Spokesperson Manuel Adorni avoided an aggressive response when asked at a press conference about Cameron's trip to the islands. 

"David Cameron's visit to the Malvinas is a matter of David Cameron's agenda and in that case of the British Government," he answered.

"We have no reason to give our opinion on the agenda of other countries," concluded the official, who reaffirmed Argentina’s sovereignty claim.


Sovereignty dispute

The disputed territory, known as Islas Malvinas in Argentina and the Falkland Islands in the UK, lie about 480 kilometres (298 miles) from mainland Argentina, which claims to have inherited them from Spain when it gained independence.

Britain insists it has historically ruled the Falklands and notes that islanders voted 99.8 percent in favour of remaining British in a 2013 referendum.

A conflict over the territory in 1982 claimed the lives of 255 British and 649 Argentine soldiers and three islanders.

Argentina's new president Javier Milei – who met Cameron last month in Davos, Switzerland, at the World Economic Forum – has said he hopes to recover the islands diplomatically.

While on the islands, the former British prime minister told the Kelpers that London would never abandon them.

“We will never prioritise our relationship with Argentina over the wishes of the Falkland Islanders.” Lord Cameron said during a speech in Stanley.

"As long as you want to be part of the British family we will defend your sovereign right to make that choice," he told residents.

Ahead of his visit, Cameron insisted sovereignty was non-negotiable while the residents wish to remain British.

"The Falkland Islands are a valued part of the British family," he told the PA, which went with him to the archipelago 12,875 kilometres from Britain.

"And we are clear that as long as they want to remain part of the family, the issue of sovereignty will not be up for discussion," Cameron said.

Milei has previously suggested London should approach the issue in a way similar to the handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997.

His government did not initially react to Cameron's visit.

Cameron toured battle sites on the islands and laid a wreath at a war memorial before travelling to a G20 summit in Brazil.

The last UK cabinet minister to visit was defence secretary Michael Fallon in 2016, while Douglas Hurd was the last foreign secretary to head there, in 1994.

 

– TIMES/AFP/NA
 

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