UK & World News

  • 7 February 2013, 0:56

Argentina: Falklands Islanders 'Don't Exist'

Argentina has escalated the row over the Falklands by claiming its people do not exist as a nation and are just British citizens living on disputed land.

Foreign minister Hector Timerman continued his war of words with Britain after declaring on Tuesday that Argentina would control the islands within 20 years.

On a visit to London, Mr Timerman claimed the United Nations only acknowledges two parties to the sovereignty dispute - the UK and Argentina.

He told a news conference: "The Falklands islanders do not exist. What exists is British citizens who live in the Islas Malvinas.

"The United Nations does not recognise a third party in the conflict. It says there are just two parts - the UK and Argentina."

Mr Timerman also expanded on his decision to withdraw from talks with William Hague after the Foreign Secretary insisted islanders should also be represented.

He blamed Mr Hague for issuing an "ultimatum" and invited him to travel to Argentina instead for a meeting without conditions.

"In an act of courtesy I offered a meeting to Foreign Secretary William Hague so we could discuss bilateral topics and multilateral issues like the UN Security Council," he said.

"The attempt to impose a condition and an ultimatum made me reject the possibility of a meeting.

"With that attitude, he prevented us from meeting to discuss all the issues relevant to the bilateral relationship."

Falkland islanders who had travelled to London criticised Mr Timerman's refusal to attend the meeting with them and Mr Hague.

Jan Cheek, representing the Legislative Assembly of the Falkland Islands, said: "We are disappointed, but hardly surprised. Argentina prefers to disregard our existence, rather than engage constructively with the people who have lived on the Falkland Islands for so many generations.

"We know that the Argentine Government is deeply worried about our referendum, which is why they spend so much time dismissing it."

Mr Hague said it was a "shame" the Argentine foreign minister had not attended the meeting and pledged the British Government's full support for the referendum.

Mr Timerman insisted Argentina was not seeking the UK's "surrender" but wanted to start a dialogue so that the dispute could be resolved peacefully.

"There are very few inhabitants of the Islas Malvinas who were born in the Islas Malvinas but for us, they are Argentinian citizens," he said.

"As Argentinian citizens, they have all the social, civil, economic, political rights as any Argentinian citizens born in continental Argentina."

He added: "The UN is very clear when it says that self-determination is only for native peoples and not for implanted populations."

Mr Timerman has already said Argentina will ignore the results of the referendum in March, in which the islanders will vote on their future.

But Mr Hague countered that Britain believed it was up to them to decide.

"The Falkland Islands is a self-governing British Overseas Territory and a thriving democracy with a growing economy," he said in a statement.

"Through nine generations the people of the Falklands have worked tirelessly to establish their position in the world and their voice deserves to be heard."

Mr Timerman has compared the UK's approach to the islands to Israeli settlement building on the West Bank and called the British "fanatics" for refusing to budge.

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