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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onto any UN list for decolonization, that the official Press Release from the Committee for the first day had to be withdrawn and re-done to Argentina’s specifications.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.


Timerman meets with Ban Ki-moon

27 Mar

According to news reports in the Spanish language press this morning, Argentina’s Foreign Minister met with the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon to reassert his country’s claims to the Falkland islands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. This meeting followed a working lunch with some of the permanent members of the  Decolonization Committee. united-nations-flag-icon

José Baraún Araníbar, President of the UNASUR block of nations, told Argentina’s media state agency Télam; “It is simply to reiterate South American states’ willingness to support not only Argentina’s rights but also to hold negotiations and settle the dispute.”

The United Nations press release simply stated: “Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Foreign Ministers of Argentina, Cuba, Peru and Uruguay discussed the issue of the Falkland Islands during their meeting today at United Nations Headquarters in New York. The Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom have been engaged in a dispute concerning the sovereignty of the islands, located in the south Atlantic Ocean.

According to a read-out of the meeting, the Secretary-General acknowledged the strong regional support on this issue and reiterated that his good offices to resolve this dispute remain available, if the parties are willing to engage.

Participating in the meeting were Héctor Timerman, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Argentina; Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Cuba; José Beraún, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Peru; and Luis Almagro, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Uruguay.

The Falkland Islands is one of 16 remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories, along with Gibraltar, New Caledonia, Western Sahara, American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Guam, Montserrat, Pitcairn, Saint Helena, Turks and Caicos Islands, United States Virgin Islands and Tokelau.”

Argentina’s growing desperation

4 Mar

Argentina’s Ambassador to the UK, Alicia Castro, again weighed in to the Falkland Islands dispute yesterday, alleging that next week’s referendum in the Islands was just a “silly game,” and “100% predictable.” Alicia Castro

Castro compared the referendum to London’s China Town deciding it wished to become a separate territory and added; “We think it’s irrational that this very small community should obstruct relations between two sovereign nations and, more than that, should obstruct the relations between the United Kingdom and the whole Latin American region.”

The Ambassador also produced Marcelo Kohen, an Argentine professor of international law at the University of Geneva, whose views, unsurprisingly, supported those of his Government. “Different human communities have different rights,” he said, and; “not all are entitled to the right of self-determination … only peoples have the right to self-determination. The General Assembly has not recognised the existence of a separate Falklands people and so the General Assembly has not recognised the applicability of the principle of self-determination to the islands.”

As the United Nations has been dealing with the peoples of the Falkland Islands for the past 67 years, this conclusion is somewhat surprising. Indeed, every year, the UN’s Decolonization Committee listen to representatives of those very people that Mr. Kohen does not believe to exist.

The referendum is an opportunity, under the remit of the UN Charter, for the Falkland Islanders to decide their own future. This is a fundamental Human Right that even Argentina has supposedly signed up to. The fact that it is taking place at all is a clear demonstration of the growing maturity of the Falklanders’ as a people with political aspirations. This maturity and confidence seems to be rattling some cages in Buenos Aires. Keen to dismiss the referendum as “irrelevant“, it is perhaps a sign of Argentina’s desperation that the country is giving the referendum so much coverage.

Ban Ki-moon addresses the 2013 Decolonization Committee

28 Feb

Opening the 2013 substantive session of the Special Committee on Decolonization, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called on that body to devise “fresh and creative” approaches in mobilizing the political will needed to eradicate colonialism, saying it had no place in the modern world. Ban Ki Moon United Nations

“It is time for a new kind of fully inclusive dialogue about decolonization,” he said, adding:  “We no longer have the luxury of indulging in rhetoric and rituals.”  The risk of movement, while sometimes frightening, was preferable to the stagnation of the status quo.

Urging the Special Committee to review its practices so as to “maximize its effectiveness”, the Secretary-General said the common endeavour of eradicating colonialism required its “constructive involvement” with the Non-Self Governing Territories under its purview and with their respective administering Powers.

The Special Committee reviews the political, social and economic conditions in the 16 United Nations-listed Non-Self Governing Territories, organizes regional seminars to discuss the challenges of decolonization and works to ensure that the United Nations aids their development.

Echoing the Secretary-General, Special Committee Chair Diego Morejón (Ecuador) said that, well into the Third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism, the body must create a “new momentum” and review each Territory to determine which should remain on its list and which should be removed.

Direct, constructive contact must be maintained with New Caledonia, which would enter a critical phase of self-determination in 2014, Mr. Morejón said.  He noted that the General Assembly had commended the positive steps taken by New Caledonian and French authorities since their signing of the 1998 Nouméa Accord giving the Territory transitional status until the holding of a referendum between 2014 and 2018.

Similarly, Papua New Guinea’s representative praised the active involvement of the Melanesian Spearhead Group and all parties under the Nouméa Accord.  Urging the Special Committee to break from “business as usual”, he called for concrete ways to help the remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories achieve their respective aspirations, and for the Special Committee to liaise closely with each of the administering Powers in a holistic manner.  In that regard, he applauded the cooperation between Tokelau and New Zealand.

Mr. Morejón spoke after having been elected by acclamation as Chair for the current session.  Also elected were Rodolfo Reyes Rodríguez (Cuba) and Shekou M. Touray (Sierra Leone) as Vice-Chairs, and Bashar Ja’afari (Syria) as Rapporteur.

The Chair proposed that the Special Committee’s annual seminar, scheduled for Latin America this year, be held in Ecuador during the last week of May, to coincide with the Week of Solidarity with the Peoples of Non-Self Governing Territories (25-31 May).

Cuba’s representative thanked Ecuador for its commitment to the Special Committee’s work.

The Special Committee approved the Chair’s proposal, as well as its proposed organization of work for 2013 (document A/AC.109/2013/L.2).  It invited Argentina, Costa Rica, Spain, Cyprus, Ghana, Mauritania, Namibia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates to participate in the session as observers.

Remaining on the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories are the Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, New Caledonia and Western Sahara, as well as American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Guam, Montserrat, Pitcairn, Saint Helena, Tokelau, Turks and Caicos Islands and the United States Virgin Islands.

The Special Committee will reconvene at a date and time to be announced.


Silly Season

22 Feb


There must be a lack of substantial news about. A researcher comes across an obscure report from a low-level diplomat in Buenos Aires, submitted to his bosses two weeks before Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands in 1982, and suddenly Britain was, “considering giving Argentina a naval base.”

What utter rubbish.

The facts are rather more mundane. On March 5th, 1982, David Joy, a member of the Embassy Staff in Buenos Aires reports a conversation with another diplomat, Raul Schmidt, from the Chilean Embassy. “The Schmidt thesis is based essentially on the Argentine Navy’s need of a strategic port further south than its current and most secure port, Puerto Belgrano. The obvious option Ushuaia was not satisfactory from a security point of view because it is under constant Chilean surveillance. Therefore the Argentines are, according to Schmidt, desperate to have some other secure port further south, a goal that could be satisfied by having access to the islands south of Beagle or the Falklands. In this context, he believes the sovereignty disputes are linked.”

Considered so important a revelation that Joy’s report does not actually get picked up in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London until March 16th; and an unknown someone pencils a note in the margin. “I think we are agreed that the Argentine interest in South Atlantic security is part of her wish to gain sovereignty over the islands. But it’s only a small part. After all, if all they wanted was a naval base we could easily accommodate them.”

Then there is a second comment, in different handwriting – “Could we easily accommodate the Argentines on a naval base? Because this is the sort of idea which we should have in mind if negotiations do resume.” This commentator is as unidentified as the first.

No suggestion of anyone at a high level in the FCO seeing the document, and no indication that the provision of a naval base for Argentina was ever considered by the great and the good who actually form Government policy. And yet headlines proclaim – UK considered allowing Argentina Falklands naval base two weeks before war!

It must be silly season already.

FIG’s response to Timerman

2 Feb

The Falkland Islands’ Government has responded to the latests refusal by a senior Argentine politician to meet with them. The official communique says:

Argentine Foreign Secretary refuses to meet with UK Foreign Secretary William Hague and Falklands Assembly Members. Stanley

The Falkland Islands Government deeply regrets that the Argentine Foreign Secretary Hector Timerman yesterday refused the opportunity to meet with the United Kingdom Foreign Secretary and Members of the Falkland Islands Legislative Assembly in London next week.

Sadly this refusal comes as no surprise to us, as this is not the first time our attempts at dialogue have been ignored.

In June 2012 at the United Nations in New York President Fernandez de Kirchner was offered a letter asking her to meet with Assembly Members to hear their views and to discuss matters of common interest. Regrettably, she refused to accept it. The letter was subsequently delivered to the Argentine Government, however we have never received a response.

There are various matters of mutual interest that could be discussed, for example the conservation of fish stocks in the waters of the South West Atlantic. The Falkland Islands Government’s desire for normal neighbourly relations is nothing new but this most recent refusal of the Argentine Government to recognise our people or our rights once again demonstrates how one sided this desire is.

We were looking forward to a full and frank exchange of views, and would have taken the opportunity to give Mr Timerman some very direct messages on the unacceptability of Argentina’s actions against the Falkland Islands in recent years. All we ask is that our rights be respected and that we be left in peace to choose our own future and to develop our country for our children and generations to come. It appears that the Government of Argentina is afraid to hear this from the Falkland Islanders themselves.

“Hands Off” says the Sun

4 Jan

A British newspaper has published a full page advert in Argentina, warning its President to keep her “hands off” the Falklands. Falk Flag
The Sun was responding to an open letter from Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, in which she called for the islands to come under Argentine sovereignty. 

The newspaper’s message to Ms Kirchner – printed in The Buenos Aires Herald – raises the issue of Argentina’s 1982 invasion of the islands. It mentions the 649 Argentine and 255 British servicemen who lost their lives and says the invasion was in “direct conflict” with the UN principle of self-determination. The advertisment also disputes Argentina’s claim to the islands by pointing out that British sovereignty dates back to 1765.
The advertisement concludes: “Until the people of the Falkland Islands choose to become Argentinian, they remain resolutely British. In the name of our millions of readers, and to put it another way: ‘HANDS OFF!'”
The Falklands were visited and claimed in 1765  by Commodore Byron for King George III. The following year Captain John Macbride arrived with two ships and 25 marines for the garrison. The French, who had arrived in 1764 and built a fort on East Falkland Island abandoned their claim in 1767. Spanish troops then moved into the French fort and challenged the British over the sovereignty of the archipelago. This came close to war in 1770 before Spain backed down. Spain maintained its claim until 1863 when it sent a diplomatic mission to the Falkland Islands which saluted the Union Jack.

Argentina believes that it inherited Spain’s claim