x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

UK dismisses 'irrelevant' Argentina complaint over sending ships to Falkland Islands

President Cristina Kirchner said in a speech that she would report the UK to the UN Security Council because Britain's actions imply "a great risk for international security".

LONDON // The UK government yesterday dismissed as irrelevant Argentina's decision to make a formal complaint to the United Nations over Britain's alleged "militarisation" of the Falkland Islands.

In an escalating war of words over the long-disputed islands in the South Atlantic as the 30th anniversary of the Argentinian invasion approaches, President Cristina Kirchner said in a speech that she would report the UK to the UN Security Council because Britain's actions imply "a great risk for international security".

Speaking at the presidential palace, she cited Britain's decision to send its latest destroyer to patrol the waters around the islands, which have been a British colony since 1833, and the six-week deployment of Prince William as an RAF search and rescue helicopter pilot.

The UK is also understood to have dispatched a Trafalgar Class nuclear submarine to the area.

Mrs Kirchner said it was impossible not to regard "the sending of an immense and modern destroyer accompanied by the royal heir, who we would have liked to see in civilian clothes and not in military uniform" as anything but a show of military force.

The British government, which maintains that the deployment of the destroyer and the prince are simply "routine", immediately ruled out negotiations with Buenos Aires over the future of the islands, which the Argentinians call the Malvinas.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "The people of the Falkland Islands are British out of choice. They are free to determine their own future and there will be no negotiations with Argentina over sovereignty unless the islanders wish it."

However, Dick Sawle, a leading member of the elected assembly on the islands, welcomed the Argentinian move because he hoped it would lead the UN reiterating its commitment to people's right to self-determination, as enshrined in the UN Charter.

"The people of the Falklands don't wish in any way, shape or form to be taken over by Argentina," Mr Sawle, who is on a visit to London, told BBC radio. "The British government is absolutely right to back our right to self-determination."

Foreign Secretary William Hague has accused Argentina of attempting to "raise the diplomatic pressure" over the Falklands in recent months and prime minister David Cameron has accused Buenos Aires of wanting to colonise the islands.

In her speech, Mrs Kirchner said it was Britain who was the occupying power in the islands. "It is an anachronism that in the 21st Century that there are still colonies: there are only 16 cases [of colonisation] in the whole world, 10 of them are English," she said.

"I want to simply ask the English [sic] prime minister that he gives peace a chance - that some time he gives peace a chance."

A diplomat in London, speaking on condition of anonymity, said yesterday: "The complaint to the UN is an irrelevance in many ways, not least because Britain is a member of the Security Council and has the power of veto.

"It is, however, indicative of a long-term diplomatic campaign that President Kirchner appears intent on mounting over the islands, perhaps to deflect attention from Argentina's domestic problems and, perhaps, because of the growing realisation of the wealth of fisheries and offshore oil around the Falklands."

He added that the UK government remained worried that Argentina would put pressure on other South American countries to impose trade sanctions. Some nations have already agreed to ban ships flying the islands' flag from the end of the year and there are fears over the future of the crucial air link between the Falklands and Chile.

dsapsted@thenational.ae