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Politics & press news – Embassy 45

Vote won't solve Islands dispute, say envoys

The upcoming referendum on the Falklands/Malvinas will not help to solve the territorial dispute between Britain and Argentina, an Embassy snap poll of London's diplomats has revealed.

Asked whether the vote would bring the two parties closer to an agreement, more than 90 per cent of diplomats felt the referendum would not have a positive impact.

One head of mission commented that the Falklands/Malvinas would probably “stay British for the foreseeable future”, not due to referenda but “just realpolitik”.

Echoing the views of US Secretary of State John Kerry, most envoys (60 per cent) felt in general dialogue between the parties was preferable in resolving disputes over territorial integrity and self-determination, while 13 per cent felt a referendum on self-determination was a better option.

More than one in four respondents (27 per cent) felt a combination of both dialogue and a vote would be a satisfactory approach, but added that talks between the two parties should precede any vote on self-determination.

As one diplomat pointed out: “If a referendum is used to get an upper hand, it is not sustainable in the long run. Dialogue is always good, and if a referendum is decided as a follow-up, even better.”

On whether the results of the referendum should be recognised, 70 per cent said the results of the poll should not be recognised.

The remaining 30 per cent said the wishes of the Islanders should be taken into consideration even if a referendum was not the best solution to the dispute.

While self-determination and anti-colonialism were both “convenient, 21st century, politically correct, morally uplifting," arguments, one embassy worker commented that the terrotirial dispute had more to do with “Argentina and the UK positioning themselves in terms of the huge mineral wealth locked in the South Pole”.

On that point, the Argentine Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr Hector Timerman said at a press conference held in London that extracting oil in the area posed an environmental hazard that would affect Argentina should a spill similar to that of the Mexican Gulf occur.

He warned that Argentina would continue to take "economic measures" against those oil companies operating in the region.

On the issue of the principle self-determination, the Minister said the UK argument would have more credence had it offered the same rights to the Chagossian islanders.

He said Argentina viewed "Falklanders" as British citizens on Argentine territory but that they would be permitted to keep their British nationality as many other minorities were entitled to do in Argentina.

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Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman answers media questions outside the Argentine Ambassador's Residence

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