By Rebecca Kendall, Director of Communications
It has been 30 years since the war over the Falkland/Malvinas Islands ended, but the question of sovereignty in the islands, located 248 miles off the coast of Argentina, is still very much fresh in the minds of those closest to the issue, including Argentina’s Ambassador to the United States Jorge Argüello.
Argüello, along with Ambassador Jorge Lapsenson, consul general of the Argentine Consulate General in Los Angeles, and Cristina Vallina, deputy consul general of the Argentine Consulate General in Los Angeles, visited campus yesterday as guests of the UCLA International Institute, the UCLA Latin American Institute and its Center for Argentina, Chile and the Southern Cone.
During his mid-day talk, Argüello discussed the history of the 179-year-old conflict between Argentina and Britain for control over the Falkland/Malvinas Islands, and his hopes for a peaceful bilateral resolution to the issue.
Then, like now, “the U.K seeks to have a strategic foothold in the South Atlantic,” he said, adding that Argentina “has never ceased to insist upon restitution by the U.K.” after the U.K. took control of the islands in 1833, expelling the inhabitants and denying Argentina of its “sovereign rights” over the islands. Today, roughly 3,000 people of British decent inhabit the island.
Argüello spoke of the years of cooperation between Britain and Argentina, the steps taken to promote the establishment of social, cultural and economic links between the mainland and the islands, and the inability of the two nations to come to an agreement regarding which nation had jurisdiction over the territory.
“The only obstacle for a solution is the lack of political will on behalf of the United Kingdom,” he said. “The British presence in the islands can be explained by the existing balance of power between the U.K. and Argentina on the one hand, and between the U.K. and the UN on the other. In both situations, the U.K. enforces its authority by refusing to fulfill its duty regarding the call of the general assembly of the United Nations. Unfortunately there is no higher authority we can turn to when one of the permanent members of the Security Council refuses to comply with its legal obligations.”
Argentina, he says, is dedicated to peaceful relations and negotiations to regain authority over the islands, and that the possibility of armed attack initiated by Argentina (as the U.K. is said to believe possible) is “nonsense.”
Argüello told the audience of more than 40 that Argentina was recently “forced to report the U.K. to the United Nations Security Council for unnecessarily bringing weapons to the South Atlantic region,” referring to the recent deployment of a nuclear submarine to the islands, a vessel he says is the same type as that recently deployed by the U.K. to the Persian Gulf, which he describes as “an area whose high volatility is not comparable at all to that of the South Atlantic.”
He went on to say that a bilateral agreement is beneficial and will mark a return to the mutually beneficial relationship once shared between the U.K. and Argentina, one that was highlighted by a longstanding cultural connection strengthened by large British communities settled in Argentina from the 19th century on, as well as strong economic and trade links.
“We do not forget the important role played by Great Britain in the social and economic development in the early years of our nation,” said Argüello, adding that the international community, “which has invaluably supported bilateral conversations throughout the development of the Malvinas question,” will also view this effort as positive.
“We need political will on both sides,” said Argüello. “We need to work side by side to generate political conditions for consensus, and for that we need courage and imagination. It takes two to tango.”