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UN’s Fourth Committee Consider the Falklands – no action pending

18 Oct

The United Nation’s Fourth Committee opened its annual consideration on the issue of decolonization on October 7th and concluded on the 14th.

As with previous years the Committee had before it the Reports of its sub-Committee, the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples – known informally as the Special Committee or the C24.

Again, in a repetition of the course of business that takes place every year, Argentina and its allies were heard to repeat the mantra that the Falkland Islands were in some way a special case despite the UN’s General Assembly never having said any such thing. Those representatives were also at some pains to include along with the Falklands – South Georgia and the South Shetland Islands, together with the more recently added “surrounding maritime areas.” In fact so much effort was spent in the attempt to include these locations, none of which fall onto any UN list for decolonization, that the official Press Release from the Committee for the first day had to be withdrawn and re-done to Argentina’s specifications.

In particular, the input from Chile had to be largely re-written as, according to the first press report, her representative had failed to mention the Falklands Islands, etc, etc, at all.

The most important statement to come out of the Fourth Committee’s deliberations over the week was the affirmation that the process of decolonization was both “irresistible and irreversible,” although typically Argentina attempted to distance the Falkland Islands, etc., etc., from the decolonization process even though the Fourth Committee, and indeed the UN, has no remit to resolve any sovereignty dispute. Argentina appears to like the decolonization forum while trying to convince the world that the Falklands should not actually be considered a case for decolonization.

It seems that yet again they failed. At the conclusion on Monday the Fourth Committee reaffirmed that there was no alternative to the principle of self-determination before forwarding 11 draft- Resolutions to the General Assembly for adoption, none of which directly concerned the Falkland Islands, although some of the more general expressions may be applied.

Having voted in favour, Argentina, as every year, then attempted to say that its vote did not recognise the Falkland Islanders as having any right to self-determination despite the fact that this is now recognised as a fundamental Human Right. They even referred to the long-dead Resolution 2065 which had been killed off in 1982 – by Argentina’s invasion of the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, etc., etc., etc.

Another year gone.


The Falklands at the Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference

4 Sep

At the third plenary session of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference being held in Johannesburg, South Africa the members of the organisation discussed ‘Self-Determination, Self-Sufficiency and Self-Government.’

The session included the views of the representative of the Falkland Islands, Roger Edwards who told the conference; ”In March 2013, the current (Falklands) legislature assembly held a referendum in which the question of sovereignty was discussed. 99.8% voted in favor of retaining the current sovereign status. This is a strong and clear message to the outside world on the political views of the Falkland Islands people. By the referendum we have demonstrated to the world our wish to exercise self-determination and be self-governing.”

The CPA is an association of Commonwealth Parliamentarians who are united by community of interest, respect for the rule of law and individual rights and freedoms, and by pursuit of the positive ideals of parliamentary democracy.

Falklands Memorial Service for Thatcher

17 Apr

A Memorial Service for Margaret Thatcher was held yesterday at Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands. Christ Church Cathedral in the capital Stanley was packed; a measure of the esteem in which she is held in the islands. MT Memorial

Members of the British military, whose predecessors evicted the Argentinean invaders in 1982, also attended the service in uniform.

Ian Hanson, a member of the Falkland Islands Assembly gave the tribute; “In the case of the Falklands, her conviction that standing up for justice and freedom was the right thing to do, may have made her difficult decisions easier. We must give thanks for that conviction and for her strength of character. Because of her courage, and the skill, bravery and sacrifice of Britain’s armed forces – our liberty and our future were secured. Lady Thatcher’s legacy in our Islands goes much further than our liberation. She made the UK’s position on the Falklands very clear; there would be no negotiation over the Falkland Islands unless and until the Islanders wished it. This has ensured that subsequent British governments, regardless of political affiliation, have publicly reaffirmed the right of Falkland Islanders to determine their own future. “More than 30 years on, the support of the current British Government could not be stronger.”

Mr Hanson told the congregation: “Today’s modern Falkland Islands is forward-looking, internally self-governing and financially self-sufficient. There is perhaps no greater legacy to a prime minister who was not afraid to stand up for freedom and justice, than the people and community she allowed us to become. One thing is certain, in the Falkland Islands her memory will never be forgotten. Margaret Thatcher – What a woman!  What a leader!  What a friend!”


The Falklands’ “Winston Churchill”

8 Apr

Falkland Islanders mourned Margaret Thatcher on Monday, revering her as “our Winston Churchill” after the 1982 invasion by Argentine forces, while many Argentines bitterly recalled her role in defending the South Atlantic territory.

Flags flew at half-staff on the Falklands after news of Thatcher’s death aged 87. margaret-thatcher-falklands-jan-1983

Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister when Argentina sent an invasion force to seize the Falklands in April 1982. PM Thatcher’s immediate reaction was to fight back. ” … for the first time for many years, British sovereign territory has been invaded by a foreign power. …The Government have now decided that a large task force will sail as soon as all preparations are complete. HMS Invincible will be in the lead and will leave port on Monday. …

The people of the Falkland Islands, like the people of the United Kingdom, are an island race. Their way of life is British; their allegiance is to the Crown. They are few in number, but they have the right to live in peace, to choose their own way of life and to determine their own allegiance. It is the wish of the British people and the duty of Her Majesty’s Government to do everything that we can to uphold that right. That will be our hope and our endeavour..”

The Falklands War lasted only 74 days before the British Task Force forced the surrender of the Argentine forces dug in on the Falklands; but not before the loss of over 900 lives including those of three Islanders.

In many ways the War defined Thatchers period as Prime Minister and earned here the name “Iron Lady.’

Her resolve was unflinching; even when pushed by the US President to find a diplomatic solution; “I didn’t lose some of my best ships and some of my finest lives, to leave quietly under a ceasefire without the Argentines withdrawing… I’m not handing over the island now … I can’t lose the lives and blood of our soldiers to hand the islands over to a contact group. It’s not possible… This is democracy and our island,..”

Islander Tim Miller, 60, recalled the 1982 conflict. “For me, she was for the Falklands what Winston Churchill was to Great Britain in 1940. She was the right person in the right place at the right time and did the right thing.”

However Thatcher’s death stirred up angry memories in Argentina. Jose Raschella, 48, said: “I hope God can forgive her because I can’t. The pain that she left our country can’t be erased, we’ll never forget all that pain.” On Twitter, left-leaning political groups celebrated the demise of a “war criminal.”

Carlos Grillo, a 63-year-old shop owner in Buenos Aires, said he had mixed feelings. “I hated her at that time, so I can’t be impartial. I can’t say ‘I’m sorry, I’m not sorry.”

In Buenos Aires, while most people were pleased or indifferent about Thatcher’s death, Alcides Francesco expressed some admiration for the British leader. “She was an English patriot. If we’d had several Margaret Thatchers here, the Falkland Islands would be ours.”

The Argentine government made no official comment.

Falklands Referendum – what next?

12 Mar

With the polls closed and counting underway, the effect of the Falkland Islands’ Referendum continues to reverberate around South America and many other parts of the world.

Condemned by Argentina’s Government as “illegal,” and criticised by many other South American Governments, including Uruguay, Venezuela and Ecuador, the plebiscite to determine the Islanders’ wishes regarding their future is sure to keep the issue of sovereignty in the press for some weeks to come while its importance is debated. Referendum 2

Argentina’s view is that the vote can in no way affect their claim to the South Atlantic archipelago; which, as they see it, is a bone of contention between themselves and Great Britain, unaffected by any third party. An argument in which the Islanders have no place and no say. Argentina’s position remains that they inherited the islands on their independence from Spain, and that the Falklands were taken from them by force in 1833 in an act of colonialism that remains to be addressed today.

The British view is that the Falkland Islanders, like any people living in a non-self governing territory, have the right to determine their own future. A right enshrined in the United Nations’ Charter – a multilateral treaty signed by both Argentina and the UK. Britain’s claim goes back to 1765 and the British Government in 1829, clearly warned Buenos Aires to stay away from British property. Britain has also had to eject two armed forces sent by Argentina to seize this British territory – in 1833 and 1982.

The United Nation’s position remains ambiguous. A supporter of both decolonization, and the human right of ‘self-determination,’ the UN has not issued any Resolution on the issue of the Falklands since 1988. The UN condemned Argentina’s invasion in 1982, and has appeared reluctant to deal with the issue following the renewal of diplomatic relations in 1989. One sub-sub-Committee of the UN’s General Assembly, the Decolonization Committee, supports Argentina but is seen as outdated and heavily biased against the UK.

In reality, the Referendum cannot be seen as illegitimate, as there is no law which bans it and it has been conducted within the normally accepted rules concerning such events. Rules observed by an international team of lawmakers put together by the Canadians and which includes observers from Uruguay, Paraguay and Chile; all of whom support Argentina’s supposedly “legitimate” rights. Therefore these two days have seen a perfectly legal event in which the Falklanders’ have been able to express their desires. There is little doubt about the result however, as the Islanders’ remain staunchly British.

What is in doubt is the effect that this event will have. Some say that it’ll make no difference to either Argentina’s aggressive demands or UN indifference. Others say that it has already made a difference as the world has been reminded that the Falklands are not just an empty group of windswept rocks but a land with a people.

A people with the right to speak.

Unthinking Alicia Castro

13 Feb

Alicia Castro, Argentina’s Ambassador to the United Kingdom, is quoted yesterday as saying that tri-lateral talks over sovereignty of the Falkland Islands is “unthinkable,” and that next month’s referendum on the Islands, “.. has the spirit of a publicity campaign, with no legal effect on the sovereignty dispute”. Alicia Castro

“In 1985 the UN told the UK that a referendum of that kind would not be recognized by that body…  Trying to incorporate  into the dialogue a government from the Islands which is not recognized is unthinkable: dialogue is bilateral, UK and Argentina”.

Speaking in London the Ambassador went on to accuse the British Government of, “militarizing” the South Atlantic which presented a “risk.”

The reference to 1985 is rather new in Argentina’s often narrow interpretations of historical events. Following the Falklands War in 1982, the United Nations were concerned that the two combatants, Britain and Argentina, were not prepared to renew diplomatic relations. As a result of this concern, and recognising that the South Atlantic archipelago was the object of Argentina’s invasion in April 1982, the General Assembly issued a Resolution every year until 1988 calling for negotiations. Diplomatic relations were re-established in 1989 – although Falklands sovereignty was not discussed.

During the course of the debate preceding the 1985 Resolution, Britain suggested amendments to reinforce the Islanders’ right to self-determination. Argentina, which laid greater emphasis on territorial integrity, argued that a reference to the Charter’s enshrined right of peoples to self-determination, would bias any negotiations against their claim. There was no mention of a referendum.

The amendments were not accepted although subsequent statements from the UN’s General Assembly continue to assert the right to self-determination of all peoples which, following the ICJ’s Kosovo decision, is now recognised as superior to “territorial integrity.” Argentina refuses to recognise the Kosovo decision.

Last year, the Secretary-General of the United Nations confirmed that the UK was not in breach of any UN Resolutions and since that time, the Argentine Government has concentrated on the 1985 Resolution; ignoring the others. Britain first claimed the Falklands in 1765 whereas Argentina claims that the British kicked them off the islands in 1833.

Timerman tries to meet Hague again

4 Feb

Argentina’s Ambassador to London, Alicia Castro, has again written to the Foreign Office to request a meeting between Hector Timerman and William Hague. Falk Flag

Dated the 4th February, the letter states: “Dear Secretary, I am writing to you to inform you that the Minister of Relaciones Héctor Timerman is already in London starting today and until February 6. According to the notes addressed to you on 29 and 31 January, the Minister reiterates his request to hold a bilateral meeting alone in order to address the numerous issues of the bilateral and multilateral agenda between both States. I take this opportunity to reiterate the assurances of my most distinguished consideration.”

Foreign Minister Hector Timerman is meeting with the cross-party UK/Argentina Group of MP’s while he is in London, and also with a group of European parliamentarians in a closed session hosted at Alicia Castro’s residence.

Robin Walker MP is chairing the MP’s meeting; “I do appreciate that Falkland islanders feel very strongly on this issue and will be expressing their views in the upcoming referendum. I shall certainly be standing up for their right to self-determination but I do think it is important that a discussion between Parliaments of two sovereign and democratic countries should be conducted in a polite and reasonable way. There are a range of issues to talk about including bilateral trade, human rights and the G20 but I have no doubt that the concerns of islanders will be well represented by Parliamentarians at the meeting. For my part I shall be chairing the meeting and seeking to enable a frank exchange of views. I hope that we are able to talk about other issues as well as the islands, but please rest assured that I have neither the authority nor the inclination to hold talks on any issue which should clearly be for the people of the Falkands to decide on.”

Argentina has sporadically maintained that it has a claim to the Islands since 1833; with greater emphasis following the Peronist movement of the 1950’s. Britain first claimed the South Atlantic Archipelago in 1765. The two countries went to war in 1982, following an invasion by Argentina although its first attempt to seize the Falklands was in 1832.

Robin Walker can be contacted via –