|William Hague, the UK foreign secretary, said the British navy “packs a very considerable punch” [Reuters]|
Argentina has accused Britain of militarising a sovereignty dispute over the Falkland Islands, expressing anger over a UK decision to send a warship and the country’s future king to the islands.
The two countries have engaged in a war of words in recent weeks ahead of the 30th anniversary of Argentina’s failed attempt to seize the disputed South Atlantic archipelago, after Britain occupied the islands about 180 years ago.
Buenos Aires was already angered by Britain’s announcement of deploying Prince William, a Royal Air Force helicopter pilot, for a six-week military mission in the Falklands, known in Argentina as Las Malvinas.
The Argentinian foreign ministry said it was saddened that Prince William “will arrive on our soil in the uniform of a conquistador, and not with the wisdom of a statesman who works for peace and dialogue between nations”.
William Hague, the British foreign secretary, said on Tuesday that the UK was sending one of its most modern warships, the destroyer HMS Dauntless, to the Falklands.
He called the deployment a routine replacement of another warship, but also stressed that “the Royal Navy packs a very considerable punch”.
Argentina’s foreign ministry accused Britain of taking the debate over the islands into dangerous territory to distract people from British economic problems.
– The Falklands are situated in the south Atlantic ocean, 1080km east of Argentina and around 13000km southwest of Britain
– The archipelago, known in Argentina as Las Malvinas, consists of two main islands and 200 smaller ones
– The land is sparsely populated with a population of just over 3,000
– Britain took control of the islands by force in 1833, Argentina has claimed sovereignty ever since.
“The governments should avoid the temptation of inciting debates that transform patriotism into bullying with the aim of distracting public attention from political decisions to reduce spending in the context of structural crisis and high unemployment,” the foreign ministry’s statement said.
It added that while Argentina pursued peace around the world by participating in UN missions, “Britain insists on ignoring UN resolutions, weakening diplomatic efforts and increasing the risk of more wars”.
In 1982, Argentina sought to reclaim the islands, but the invasion left more than 600 Argentinians and 200 British soldiers dead.
Since that defeat, Argentina has hoped diplomatic and economic measures would pressure Britain into compiling with UN resolutions encouraging both countries to negotiate the islands’ sovereignty. British leaders have refused to do that.
The pressure on Britain includes a ban by South America’s Mercosur nations on any Falklands-flagged vessels entering their ports. That action prompted David Cameron, the British prime minister, to accuse Argentine President Cristina Fernandez of having “colonialist” aims on an island population that wants to remain a British dependency.
She accused Cameron of “mediocrity bordering on stupidity”.