Sovereignty of the Falkland Islands

Sovereignty of the Falkland Islands

The sovereignty of the Falkland Islands ("Islas Malvinas" in Spanish) [] WordReference, English-Spanish Dictionary. "Falklands: the Falklands, las (islas) Malvinas".] has been the subject of dispute between the United Kingdom, Spain, France and Argentina (all controlling the Falkland Islands at some point), lasting more than two centuries. The United Kingdom has exercised "de facto" sovereignty over this archipelago in the South Atlantic since 1833, and claimed "de jure" sovereignty since 1690. This claim to "de jure" sovereignty has been disputed by Argentina, a dispute which escalated in 1982 with Argentina's invasion of the islands resulting in the Falklands War. The contemporary Falkland Islanders consider themselves to be British and have had full British citizenship since an act passed in 1983. Argentina does not recognise the right to self-determination of the inhabitants, citing that they are not aboriginal and were brought to replace the Argentine population that Argentina claims was expelled after the re-establishment of British rule in 1833 [] Argentine Ministry of Foreign Affairs: "The principle of self-determination does not apply to the Malvinas Islands Question ... the fact that the United Kingdom occupied the islands by force in 1833, expelled the original population and did not allow its return, thus violating Argentine territorial integrity. Therefore, the possibility of applying the principle of self-determination is ruled out, as its exercise by the inhabitants of the islands would cause the “disruption of the national unity and territorial integrity” of Argentina."] . The United Nations have called on both countries to begin dialogue over the sovereignty claim. [] Special Committee on Decolonization adopts resolution expressing regret over delay in talks to resolve Falkland Islands (Malvinas) dispute]

History of the claims

French claim

France was the first country to establish de facto control in the Falkland Islands, with the foundation of Port Saint Louis in East Falkland, in 1764. The French colony consisted of a small fort and some settlements with a population of around 250. The Islands were named in French after the Breton port of St. Malo as the "Îles Malouines". In 1766, France agreed to leave the islands to Spain, with Spain reimbursing the cost of the settlement.cite web
last = Lewis
first = Jason
coauthors = Inglis, Alison
title = Part 2 - Fort St. Louis and Port Egmont
work = A brief history of the Falkland Islands
publisher =
url =
accessdate = 2007-07-19

panish claim

Spain claimed the Falkland Islands under provisions in the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht which settled the limits of the Spanish Empire in the Americas. When Spain discovered the British and French colonies on the Islands, a diplomatic row broke out between the claimants. In 1766, Spain and France, who were allies at the time, agreed that France would hand over Port Saint Louis, and Spain would repay the cost of the settlement. Spain and Great Britain enjoyed uneasy relations at the time, and no corresponding agreement was reached.

The Spanish took control of Port Saint Louis and renamed it Puerto Soledad in 1767. In 1770, a Spanish expedition expelled the British colony at Port Egmont, and Spain briefly assumed total control of the Islands. Spain and Great Britain came close to war over the issue, but instead, concluded a treaty allowing the British to return to Port Egmont with neither side relinquishing sovereignty claims.cite web
last = Harris
first = Chris
title = Declarations signed by Masserano and Rochford January 22nd 1771
work = The history of the Falkland Islands
url =
date = 2002-05-27
accessdate = 2008-06-28

The British returned in 1771 but due to economic reasons decided to leave the Islands in 1774. The British withdrawal was completed in 1776, leaving Spain in total control. From 1774 to 1811, the islands were ruled from Buenos Aires as part of the Viceroyalty of the River Plate. The Spanish governor was withdrawn in 1806, and the islands abandoned by the Spanish settlers by a 8 January 1811 decree of the Governor of Montevideo, with a plaque asserting Spanish sovereignty left behind. cite book
last = Hoffman
first = Fritz L.
coauthors = Hoffman, Olga Mingo
title = Sovereignty in Dispute: The Falklands/Malvinas, 1493-1982
publisher = Westview Press
date = 1984
location = Boulder, Colorado
pages = p 65
isbn = 0-86531-605-8

Argentine claim

Argentina declared its independence from Spain in 1816, although this was not then recognised by any of the major powers.

The new state (United Provinces of the River Plate) was formed from former provinces of the Viceroyalty of the River Plate and as such claimed sovereignty over the Falklands. In October 1820, the frigate "Heroína" under the command of American privateer Colonel David Jewett arrived in Puerto Soledad following an 8 month voyage and with most of her crew incapacitated by scurvy and disease. A storm had resulted in severe damage to the "Heroína" and had sank the prize "Carlota" forcing Jewett to put into Puerto Soledad for repairs. The captain chose to rest and recover in the islands seeking assistance from the British explorer James Weddell. Weddell reports only 30 seamen and 40 soldiers out of a crew of 200 fit for duty, and how Jewett slept with pistols over his head following an attempted mutiny. On 6 November 1820, Jewett raised the flag of the United Provinces of the River Plate and claimed possession of the islands. Weddell reports the letter he received from Jewett as:cite book
last = Weddell
first = James
authorlink = James Weddell
title = A Voyage Towards the South Pole
publisher = Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown and Green
date = 1827
location = London

"Sir, I have the honor of informing you that I have arrived in this port with a commission from the Supreme Government of the United Provinces of the Rio de la Plata to take possession of these islands on behalf of the country to which they belong by Natural Law. While carrying out this mission I want to do so with all the courtesy and respect all friendly nations; one of the objectives of my mission is to prevent the destruction of resources necessary for all ships passing by and forced to cast anchor here, as well as to help them to obtain the necessary supplies, with minimum expenses and inconvenience. Since your presence here is not in competition with these purposes and in the belief that a personal meeting will be fruitful for both of us, I invite you to come aboard, where you'll be welcomed to stay as long as you wish; I would also greatly appreciate your extending this invitation to any other British subject found in the vicinity; I am, respectfully yours." Signed, Jewett, Colonel of the Navy of the United Provinces of South America and commander of the frigate Heroína.

Many modern authors report this letter as the declaration issued by Jewett.cite book
last = Destéfani
first = Laurio H.
title = The Malvinas, the South Georgias and the South Sandwich Islands, the conflict with Britain
date = 1982
location = Buenos Aires
] Weddell did not believe that Jewett was acting with the interests of the United Provinces in mind, rather Jewett had merely put into the harbour in order to obtain refreshments for his crew, and that the assumption of possession was chiefly intended for the purpose of securing an exclusive claim to the wreck of the French ship "Uranie" that had a few months previously foundered at the entrance of Berkeley Sound. Weddell left the islands on 20 November 1820 noting that Jewett had not completed repairs to the "Heroína".

In 1823 the Argentines granted land on East Falkland to Luis Vernet, who first travelled to the islands in 1824. The first expedition failed almost as soon as it landed, and the second attempt, in 1826, sanctioned by the British (and delayed until Winter by a Brazilian blockade), arrived, but was also unsuccessful. In 1828 Vernet was granted all of East Falkland including all its resources, and exempted him from taxation if a colony could be established within three years. He took settlers, including British Captain Matthew Brisbane, and before leaving once again sought permission first from the British Consulate in Buenos Aires. The British asked for a report for the British government on the islands, and Vernet asked for British protection should they return.cite web
last = Lewis
first = Jason
coauthors = Inglis, Alison
title = Part 3 - Louis Vernet: The Great Entrepreneur
work = A brief history of the Falkland Islands
publisher =
url =
accessdate = 2007-07-19

On Vernet's return, Puerto Soledad was renamed Puerto Luis. Vernet was appointed governor in 1829, an action to which the British objected as it was an attempt by the Argentine government to foster its political and economic ties to the islands. One of Vernet's first acts was to curb seal hunting on the Islands to conserve the dwindling seal population. In response the British consul in Buenos Aires protested the move and restated the UK's claim. Islanders were born during this period (including Malvina María Vernet y Saez, Vernet's daughter).

Vernet later seized the US ship, "Harriet", for breaking his restrictions on seal hunting. Property on board the ship was seized and the captain was returned to Buenos Aires to stand trial. The American Consul in Argentina protested against the actions by Vernet, stating that the United States did not recognise Argentine sovereignty in the Falklands. The consul dispatched a warship, USS "Lexington", to Port Louis to retake the confiscated property.

In 1831 the colony was successful enough to be advertising for new colonists, although, the "Lexington"'s report suggests that the conditions on the islands were quite miserable [] Report by Silas Duncan, Commander USS "Lexington" sent to Levi Woodbury, the US Navy Secretary on 2 February 1832.] cite web
last = Monroe
first = Alexander G.
title = Commander Silas Duncan and the Falkland Island Affair
work =
publisher = USS Duncan DDR 874 Crew & Reunion Association
date = 1997-07-27
url =
accessdate = 2008-06-28
] . The captain of the "Lexington" destroyed the Argentine settlement at Port Louis. On leaving, the captain declared the islands to be "res nullius" (free of all government) and returned to Montevideo. Darwin's visit in 1833 confirmed the squalid conditions in the settlement, although Captain Matthew Brisbane [] Fitzroy, R., "VOYAGES OF THE ADVENTURE AND BEAGLE. VOLUME II."] (Vernet's deputy) later claimed that this was the result of the Lexington raid. Governor Vernet returned to Buenos Aires after the attack but appointed an interim governor, Esteban José Francisco Mestivier, who arrived with his family to Port Louis on the schooner "Sarandí" in October 1832.

After this the "Sarandí", commanded by captain José María Pinedo, went to patrol the surrounding seas. But as they returned to Port Louis on 29 December 1832, they found the colony in uproar. In Pinedo's absence there had been a mutiny led by a man named Gomila; Mestivier had been murdered and his wife raped. The captain of the French vessel "Jean Jacques" had meanwhile provided assistance disarming and incarcerating the mutineers. Pinedo dispatched the mutineers to Buenos Aires with the British schooner "Rapid". Gomila himself would be condemned to exile, while six other mutineers were executed.

On 2 January 1833, Captain John Onslow arrived and delivered a written request that Pinedo lower the Argentine flag in favour of the British one, and that the Argentine administration leave the islands. Pinedo asked if there had been a war declared between Argentina and Great Britain, and Onslow replied there was none. Nonetheless, Pinedo, heavily outmanned and outgunned, chose to leave the islands under protest. The Argentines also claim that the population of the Port Louis was expelled at the same time, though sources from time appear to dispute this, suggesting that the colonists were encouraged to remain under Vernet's deputy, Matthew Brisbane.

Pinedo faced military trial and was suspended for four months and transferred to the land army, until he was called back to the navy in 1845. An open conflict with France and Great Britain, including a long Anglo-French blockade on Buenos Aires, prevented the Argentines from sending any expeditions to the islands, but they never renounced their claim to sovereignty.

British claim

The British first landed on the Falklands in 1690, when Captain John Strong sailed through Falkland Sound, naming this passage of water after Anthony Cary, 5th Viscount of Falkland, the First Lord of the Admiralty at that time. The British were keen to settle the islands, as they had the potential to be a strategic naval base for passage around Cape Horn.cite web
last = Lewis
first = Jason
coauthors = Inglis, Alison
title = Part 1 - The Discovery of the Falkland Islands
work = A brief history of the Falkland Islands
publisher =
url =
accessdate = 2007-07-19
] In 1765, Captain John Byron landed on Saunders Island. He then explored other islands' coasts and claimed the group for Britain. The following year, Captain John McBride returned to Port Egmont, on Saunders, to construct a fort. The British later discovered the French colony at Port Saint Louis, and the first sovereignty dispute began.

The British colony was expelled by the Spanish in 1770, only to return in 1771 following British threats of war over the islands. However, in 1774, the British chose to abandon many overseas settlements due to the economic impact of the American War of Independence.cite web
last = Lewis
first = Jason
coauthors = Inglis, Alison
title = A Chronology of events in the history of the Falkland Islands
work = Falkland Islands Timeline
publisher =
url =
accessdate = 2008-06-28
] By 1776, the British had left their settlement, leaving behind a plaque asserting British sovereignty over the islands. Although there was no British administration in the islands, British and American sealers routinely used them to hunt for seals, also taking on fresh water as well as feral cattle, pigs and even penguins for provisions. Whalers also used the islands to shelter from the South Atlantic weather and to take on fresh provisions.

Luis Vernet approached the British for permission to build a settlement at the former Spanish settlement of Puerto Soledad, initially in 1826 and again in 1828 following the failure of the earlier expedition. In addition, Vernet requested British protection for his settlement should the British choose to form a permanent presence on the islands. After receiving assurances from the British Consul Sir Woodbine Parish, Vernet provided regular reports to the British on the progress of his enterprise. Vernet's appointment as Governor in 1829 was protested by the British Consul Parish, in return the Government of the United Provinces of the River Plate merely acknowledged the protest. Britain protested again when Vernet announced his intentions to exercise exclusive rights over fishing and sealing in the islands. (Similar protests were received from the American representative, who protested at the curtailment of established rights and that the United States did not recognise the jurisdiction of the United Provinces over the islands.) Vernet continued to provide regular reports to Parish throughout this period.

The raid of the USS Lexington in December 1831 combined with the United Provinces assertions of sovereignty were the spur for the British to establish a military presence on the islands.

On 2 January 1833, Captain James Onslow, of the brig-sloop HMS "Clio", arrived at the Spanish settlement at Port Louis to request that the Argentine flag be replaced with the British one, and for the Argentine administration to leave the islands. While Argentine Lt. Col. José María Pinedo, commander of the Argentine schooner "Sarandí", wanted to resist, his numerical disadvantage was obvious, particularly as a large number of his crew were British mercenaries who were unwilling to fight their own countrymen. Such a situation was not unusual in the newly independent states in Latin America, where land forces were strong, but navies were frequently quite undermanned. As such he protested verbally, but departed without a fight on 5 January. The colony was set up and the islands continued under a British presence until the Falklands War.

After their return in 1833, the British began moves to begin a fully-fledged colony on the islands, initially based upon the settlers remaining in Port Louis. Vernet's deputy, Matthew Brisbane, returned later that year to take charge of the settlement and was encouraged to further Vernet's business interests provided he did not seek to assert Argentine Government authority. [] Islas del Atlántico Sur, Islas Malvinas, Historia, Ocupación británica: Port Stanley (Puerto Argentino)] .

In 1841, the dictator General Rosas offered to relinquish any Argentine territorial claims in return for relief of debts owed to interests in the City of London. The British Government chose to ignore the offer.cite web
last = Lewis
first = Jason
coauthors = Inglis, Alison
title = Falkland Islands Newsletter, No.14, May 1983
work = The Long View of the Falklands Situation
publisher =
url =
accessdate = 2007-07-19

A colonial administration was formed in 1842. This was expanded in 1908, when in addition to South Georgia claimed in 1775, and the South Shetland Islands claimed in 1820 the UK unilaterally declared sovereignty over more Antarctic territory south of the Falklands, including the South Sandwich Islands, the South Orkney Islands, and Graham Land, grouping them into the Falkland Islands Dependencies.

Following the introduction of the Antarctic Treaty System in 1959 the Falkland Island Dependencies were reduced to include South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. Territory south of the 60th parallel was formed into a new dependency, the British Antarctic Territory which overlaps claims by Argentina (Argentine Antarctica) and Chile (Antártica Chilena Province).

In 1976 the British Government commissioned a study on the future of the Falklands, looking at the ability of the Islands to sustain themselves, and the potential for economic development. The study was led by Lord Shackleton, son of the Antarctic explorer, Ernest Shackleton. Argentina reacted with fury to the study and refused to allow Lord Shackleton permission to travel to the Islands from Argentina, forcing the British to send a Royal Navy ship to transport him to the Islands. In response Argentina severed diplomatic links with the UK. An Argentine naval vessel later fired upon the ship carrying Shackleton as he visited his father's grave in South Georgia.

Shackleton's report found that contrary to popular belief, the Falkland Islands actually provided a surplus by its economic activities and was not dependent on British aid to survive. However the report stressed the need for a political settlement if further economic growth was to be achieved, particularly from the exploitation of any natural resources in the water around the Islands.

overeignty discussions

Following World War II, the British Empire began a substantial decline, with colonies in Asia, Africa and the Caribbean gaining independence. Argentina saw this as an opportunity to push its case for gaining sovereignty over the Falkland Islands and raised the issue in the United Nations, first stating its claim after joining the U.N. in 1945. Following the Argentine claim, the United Kingdom offered to take the dispute to mediation at the International Court of Justice in the Hague (1947 [] The Falkland Islands, A history of the 1982 conflict, Preface to a conflict] , 1948The Times, 21 April 1982, p. 13] and 1955The Issue is the Law, The Times, 27 April 1982, p. 13] ), on each occasion Argentina declined.

In 1964, the United Nations passed a resolution calling on the UK and Argentina to proceed with negotiations on finding a peaceful solution to the sovereignty question which would be "in the best interests of the population of the Falkland Islands." [] Falkland Islands Information Portal. United Nations Resolution 2065, "Question of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas)".]

A series of talks between the two nations took place over the next 17 years until 1981. [,,1516277,00.html] The Guardian. "UK held secret talks to cede sovereignity".]

The only visible progress in the talks was the authorisation given to Argentina for the construction of the Port Stanley Airport. On 3 July 1971 the Argentine Air Force broke the islands' airways isolation by opening an air route with an amphibious flight from Comodoro Rivadavia with Grumman HU-16B Albatross aircraft operated by LADE, Argentina's military airline. In 1972, after Argentine request, the United Kingdom signed a Communications Agreement to fund an airstrip on the islands. On 15 November 1972 the runway was inaugurated with the first arrival of a Fokker F-27 with subsequent flights arriving twice weekly. Flights were improved in 1978 with Fokker F-28 jets. This service, representing the only connection by air to the islands, was maintained until the 1982 war. [] Argentine National Congress, Chamber of Deputies. "Líneas Aéreas Del Estado, LADE".] [] Asociación Tripulantes de Transporte Aéreo. Argentine Air Force, "Grumman HU-16B Albatross".] [] Asociación Tripulantes de Transporte Aéreo. Argentine Air Force, "Fokker F-27 Troopship/Friendship"]

Also YPF, which at the time was the Argentine national oil and gas company, was in charge of supplying the island regularly. [] Argentine Air Force. "La Fuerza Aérea en Malvinas desde 1971 hasta 1982"]

Lack of progress in negotiations

Although the sovereignty discussions had some success in establishing economic and transport links between the Falklands and Argentina, there was no progress on the question of sovereignty of the Islands.

Whilst maintaining the British claim for sovereignty, the British Government considered transfer of sovereignty worthy of improved relations with Argentina. However, the British Government had limited room for manoeuvre owing to the strength of the Falkland Islands lobby in the Houses of Parliament. Any measure that the Foreign Office suggested on the sovereignty issue was loudly condemned by the Islanders, who re-iterated their determination to remain British. This lead to the British Government maintaining a position that the right to self-determination of the Islanders was paramount. In return, Argentina did not recognise the rights of the Islanders and so negotiations on the sovereignty issue effectively remained at a stalemate. Bound, Graham. "Falkland Islanders at War", Pen & Swords Ltd, 2002 ISBN 1 84115 429 7]


In 1976, Argentina landed an expedition in Southern Thule, an island in the South Sandwich Islands which at that time was part of the Falkland Islands Dependency. The landing was reported in the UK only in 1978 although the UK government stated a rejection of the notion of sending a force of Royal Marines to dismantle the Argentine base, Corbeta Uruguay.

However, a more serious confrontation occurred in 1977 after the Argentine Navy cut off the fuel supply to Port Stanley Airport and stated they would no longer fly the Red Ensign in Falklands waters. (Traditionally ships in a foreign country's waters would fly the country's maritime flag as a courtesy.) The British Government suspected Argentina would attempt another expedition in the manner of its Southern Thule operation. James Callaghan, the British Prime Minister ordered the dispatch of a nuclear submarine, HMS "Dreadnought" and the frigates "Alacrity" and "Phoebe" to the South Atlantic, with rules of engagement set in the event of a clash with the Argentine navy. The British even considered setting up an exclusion zone around the islands, but this was rejected in case it escalated matters. None of this was ever made public at the time, and Callaghan only revealed the operation during Parliamentary debates in 1982 during the Falklands War.

In the end, no military action occurred and diplomatic relations between Argentina and the UK were restored.

Falklands War

The Falklands War of 1982 was the largest armed conflict over the sovereignty of the islands. The war was largely started following the occupation of South Georgia by Argentine scrap merchants. However the UK had also reduced its presence in the Islands by announcing the withdrawal of HMS "Endurance", the Royal Navy's icebreaker ship and only permanent presence in the South Atlantic. The UK had also denied Falkland Islanders full British citizenship under the British Nationality Act 1981.

In 1982, Argentina was in the midst of a devastating economic crisis and large-scale civil unrest against the repressive military junta that was governing the country. On 2 April, with Admiral Jorge Anaya, the Argentine Navy commander-in-chief at the time, as the main architect and supporter of the operation, a combined Argentine amphibious force invaded the Islands. Immediately, the UK severed diplomatic ties with Argentina, began to assemble a task force to retake the Islands and a diplomatic offensive began to gain support for economic and military sanctions. The United Nations Security Council issued the Resolution 502 calling on Argentina to withdraw forces from the Islands and to both parties to seek a diplomatic solution. [] HistoryCentral. United Nations Resolution 502, "Adopted by the Security Council at its 2350th meeting held on 3 April 1982."] Another resolution called for an immediate cease fire but was vetoed by both the United States and Britain. [] The New York Times. "U.N. Resolution on Falkland War".] The European Community condemned the invasion and imposed economic sanctions on Argentina, although several EC states expressed reservations about British policy in this area, and two EC states (Denmark and Ireland) defected from cooperation. [] Columbia International Affairs Online. "Understanding Europe's "New" Common Foreign and Security Policy".] France and Germany also temporarily suspended several military contracts with the Argentine military. The United States supported mediated talks, via Secretary of State Alexander Haig, and initially took a neutral stance, although in private substantial material aid was made available to the UK from the moment of invasion. The USA publicly supported the UK's position following the failure of peace talks.

The British Task Force began offensive action against Argentina on 23 April 1982 and recaptured South Georgia following a short naval engagement. The operation to recover the Falkland Islands began 1 May and after fierce naval and air engagements an amphibious landing was made at San Carlos Bay on 21 May. On 14 June the Argentine forces surrendered and control of the islands returned to the UK.

Following the Argentine surrender, two Royal Navy ships sailed to the South Sandwich Islands and expelled the Argentine military from Thule Island, leaving no Argentine presence in the Falkland Islands Dependency.

Post war

Following the 1982 war, the British increased their presence in the Falkland Islands. RAF Mount Pleasant was constructed, which allowed fighter jets to be based on the islands and strengthen the UK's ability to reinforce the Islands at short notice. The military garrison was also increased substantially. A new garrison was also established on South Georgia. The Royal Navy South Atlantic patrol was strengthened to include both HMS "Endurance" and a Falkland Islands guard ship.

As well as the military build-up, the UK also passed the British Nationality (Falkland Islands) Act 1983, which granted full British citizenship to the islanders. High-profile British dignitaries also visited the islands to show British commitment to the islands, including Margaret Thatcher, the Prince of Wales and Princess Alexandra. The UK has also pursued links to the islands from Chile, which had provided help to British Forces during the Falklands War. LAN now provides a direct air link to Chile from Mount Pleasant.

In 1985, the Falkland Islands Dependency was split into the Falkland Islands proper and a new separate territory of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.

Under the 1985 constitution the Falkland Islands Government became a parliamentary representative democratic dependency, with the governor as head of government and representative of the Queen. Members of the FIG are democratically elected, the Governor is effectively a figurehead. Theoretically the Governor has the power under the 1985 constitution to exercise executive authority, in practise he is obliged to consult the Executive Council in the exercise of his functions. The main responsibilities of the Governor are external affairs and public services. [ [] ] Effectively under this constitution, the Falkland Islands are self-governing with the exception of foreign policy, although the FIG represents itself at the United Nations Special Committee on Decolonisation as the British Government no longer attends.

Relations between the UK and Argentina remained hostile following 1982, and diplomatic relations were not restored until 1989. Although the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution calling for the UK and Argentina to return to negotiations over the Islands' future ( [] ), the UK ruled out any further talks over the Islands' sovereignty. The UK also maintained an arms embargo against Argentina that was initiated during the 1982 war, which forced Argentine armed forces, traditionally a UK buyer, to switch to other markets.

Relations improved further in the 1990s between the UK and Argentina. In 1998, Carlos Menem, the President of Argentina visited London, where he reaffirmed his country's claims to the Islands, although he stated that Argentina would use only peaceful means for their recovery. In 2001, Tony Blair, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom visited Argentina where he stated that he hoped the UK and Argentina could resolve their differences that led to the 1982 war. However, no talks on sovereignty took place during the visit. His reception in Argentina was more welcoming than that of Diana, Princess of Wales in 1995, who was heckled by the mother of an Argentine soldier killed in the war.

In May 2005, some British tabloid newspapers reported that Argentina might be considering another invasion of the Islands. The "Sunday Express" carried the frontpage headline, "Falklands Invasion Alert" on its 22 May edition, citing an increase in Argentine military activity near the Islands, as well as a reported increase in the British garrison, including a Royal Navy ship carrying tactical nuclear weapons (the last Royal Navy tactical nuclear weapons were withdrawn in the late 1990s). The only nuclear armed RN vessels currently in service are the four Vanguard class submarines, which are armed with Trident. Two days later, "India Daily" published speculation that the islands could be a nuclear flashpoint in the future if Argentina were to gain a nuclear arsenal, citing the findings of an unnamed international think tank. [] . There was no official comment on the stories by the British or Argentine governments, and other writers have denounced the stories as "nonsense" [] .

Current claims

Claims by Argentina

The Argentine government has maintained a claim over the Falkland Islands since 1833, and renewed it for the latest time in April 2007. [] British Broadcasting Corporation. "Argentina renews Falklands claim".] It considers the archipelago part of the Tierra del Fuego Province, along with South Georgia.

Supporters of the Argentine position make the following claims:
*Sovereignty of the islands was transferred to Argentina from Spain upon independence, a principle known as "uti possidetis juris".
*Spain never renounced sovereignty over the islands, even when a British settlement existed.
*Great Britain abandoned its settlement in 1776, and formally renounced sovereignty in the Nootka Sound Convention. Argentina has always claimed the Falklands, and never renounced its claim.
*The British return in 1833 (classified as an invasion by Argentina) was illegal under international law, and this has been noted and protested by Argentina.
* The islands are located on the continental shelf facing Argentina, which would give them a claim, as stated in the 1958 UN Convention on the Continental Shelf.§Fact|date=October 2007
* Self-determination principles are not applicable since the current inhabitants are not aboriginal and were brought to replace the Argentine population expelled by the British invasion of 1833.
* Great Britain was looking to extend its territories in Americas as shown with the British invasions of the Río de la Plata years earlier.

§ Although a signatory to the 1958 convention, Argentina never ratified the convention [ [] [;Request=TREATYBYLOC;Form=none;VF_Volume=UNVOL13;VF_File=00000453;Page=1;Type=page] Convention on the Continental Shelf, Geneva, 29 April 1958] . The 1958 Convention was superseded by 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, ratified by Argentina in 1995.

The Nootka Sound Conventions

In 1789, both the United Kingdom and Spain attempted settlement in the Nootka Sound, on Vancouver Island. On October 25, 1790, these two kingdoms approved the Nootka Sound Convention, also known as the Treaty of San Lorenzo del Escorial. The Conventions included provisions recognising that the coasts and islands of South America colonised by Spain at the time were Spanish, and that areas south of the southernmost settlements were off limits to both countries, provided (in a secret article) that no third party settled there either. The conventions were cancelled in 1795, and revived in 1814.

The sixth article of the convention states:

:"It is further agreed with respect to the eastern and western coasts of South America and the islands adjacent, that the respective subjects shall not form in the future any establishment on the parts of the coast situated to the south of the parts of the same coast and of the islands adjacent already occupied by Spain; it being understood that the said respective subjects shall retain the liberty of landing on the coasts and islands so situated for objects connected with their fishery and of erecting thereon huts and other temporary structures serving only those objects." [] British Columbia from Earliest Times to Present by E.O.S Scholefield, page 666]

Whether or not this includes the islands is disputed. [ [] Lieutenant Commander Richard D. Chenette, USN, "The Argentine Seizure of the Malvinas [Falkland] Islands: History and Diplomacy", 4 May 1987]

Claims by the United Kingdom

In 1964 the Argentine government raised the matter at the United Nations in a sub-committee of the Special Committee on the situation with regard to the implementation of the UN Declaration of the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples. In reply the British Representative on the Committee declared that the British Government held that the question of sovereignty over the islands was "not negotiable". Following a report by the Special Committee, UN Resolution 2065 was passed on December 16, 1965, at the General Assembly. In its preamble it referred to the UN's "cherished aim to bring colonialism to an end everywhere", and later added that all settlements between nations had to be peaceful and, in this case, "in the interests of the population of the Falkland Islands". "The Franks Report - Falkland Islands Review", Pimlico Books, London, 1992, ISBN 0-7126-9840-X: 4]

In January 1966 the British Foreign Secretary, Michael Stewart, visited Buenos Aires when the Argentine claim to the islands was raised with him, following which, in July, a preliminary meeting was held in London, where the British delegation "formally rejected" the Argentine Ambassador's suggestion that Britain's occupation of the Islands was illegal.

On 2 December 1980 the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Nicholas Ridley, stated in the House of Commons: "We have no doubt about our sovereignty over the Falkland Islands... we have a perfectly valid title".. The current United Kingdom position remains the same and regards the right of the islanders to self-determination as "paramount".

*The British were the first to claim the islands in 1690 and have never renounced that claim.
*The islands have been continuously and peacefully occupied by the UK since 1833, with the exception of 2 months' illegal occupation by Argentina.
*Argentina's attempts to colonise the islands in 1820-33 were "sporadic and ineffectual"
*The islands had no indigenous or settled population before British settlement.
*In an Argentine-inspired poll in 1994, 87% of the island's population rejected any form of discussion of sovereignty under any circumstances
*UN General Assembly resolutions calling for negotiations "are flawed because they make no reference to the Islanders' right to choose their own future."cite web
title = Country Profile: Falkland Islands
publisher = Foreign and Commonwealth Office
date = 2007-04-13
quote = The Argentine Government has argued that the Falkland Islanders do not enjoy the right of self-determination, on the (false) basis that they replaced an indigenous Argentine population expelled by force. However there was no indigenous or settled population on the Islands until British settlement. The people who live in the Falklands now are not a transitory population. Many can trace their origins in the Islands back to the early nineteenth century. Britain is committed to defend their right to choose their own future. The Islanders are fully entitled to enjoy the right of self-determination. It is a right which cannot be applied selectively or be open to negotiation, and one which is recognised in the UN Charter and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Self-determination does not necessarily mean independence. Britain has willingly granted independence where it has been requested, and will continue to do so where it is an option, while remaining committed to those of its Overseas Territories which choose to retain the British connection. In exercise of their right of self-determination, the Falkland Islanders have repeatedly made known their wish to remain British.
accessdate = 2008-04-27

International position

The international position on the sovereignty of the islands is varied, with some countries supporting the British claim; with others supporting the Argentine claim. Some countries maintain a neutrality on the issue.

Resolutions of the United Nations and the OAS

The General Assembly of the United Nations explicitly addressed the issue of the Falkland Islands in 1965 for the first time, which Resolution 2065 noted "the existence of a dispute between the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland concerning sovereignty over [said] Islands", and invited those governments "to proceed without delay with the negotiations... with a view to finding a peaceful solution to the problem, bearing in mind the provisions and objectives of the Charter of the United Nations and of General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV) and the interests of the population of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas)."

The UN General Assembly and the UN Decolonization Committee have repeated this call for the resumption of negotiations since then, [] Falkland Islands Information Portal. "U.N. Resolutions involving the Falkland Islands".] and especially since the restoration of democracy in Argentina in 1983. [] Decolonization Committee requests Argentina, United Kingdom, to resume negotiations on Falkland Islands (Malvinas)]

On 6 June 2006 the Organization of American States (OAS) voted unanimously in favour of the Argentine proposal to restart the negotiations. [] []

upporters of the British claim

The European Union classes the islands as a special overseas territory, subject to EU law in some areas, and eligible for some European funding initiatives. The inclusion of the islands in an appendix to the proposed European constitution provoked a hostile Argentine response.

France has been particularly supportive of the British position, and provided invaluable help to the British military on the French supplied aircraft and missiles of the Argentine military during the Falklands War. France is also motivated by the fact that it, like the UK, retains many overseas territories that are subject to rival sovereignty claims including the Glorioso Islands, Mayotte and Tromelin.

The Commonwealth of Nations recognises the islands as a British territory. The Falkland Islands are not represented in the Commonwealth as they are not an independent state, but they do participate in the Commonwealth Games.

upporters of the Argentine claim

Peru is the most vocal supporter of the Argentine claim, and provided material aid during the Falklands War. Brazil and Mexico have also spoken in favour of the Argentine claim. Chile supported the United Kingdom during the Falklands War, but the post-Pinochet democratic governments have given greater support to the Argentine claim [] [] . Also, President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela has publicly supported the Argentine claim saying, "Those islands are Argentina's. Return them, Mr. Blair, those islands are Argentina's." []

Spain, although part of the European Union, has given tacit support to the Argentine claim, voting in the Argentine interest in UN Security Council votes during the Falklands War. Argentina, for its part, supports Spain's claim to Gibraltar, also under British sovereignty.

The Andean Community and Mercosur have supported the Argentine claim since their creation.


The United States maintains official neutrality on the islands' sovereignty. Despite this, the US provided material aid and intelligence to the British during the Falklands War. The CIA "World Factbook" lists the islands as "Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas)"; and Central Intelligence Agency maps state that the islands are administered by the United Kingdom and claimed by Argentina.

During the 1982 war, the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact countries maintained an official neutrality, despite Argentine diplomatic attempts to acquire support at the United Nations Security Council. Although the UK suspected possible Soviet interference by providing Argentina with satellite intelligence or arms, Argentina confirmed after the war that no support was received. The People's Republic of China has also officially maintained neutrality on the issue. PRC atlases and maps label the islands as being disputed between Argentina and the United Kingdom, and consistently show the sinicized Argentine names (e.g., Malvinas, Puerto Argentino) in a larger font first, followed by the sinicized British names (e.g., Falklands, Stanley) in a smaller font in parentheses.

Although maintaining a neutral view, the UN's position for decades has been to ask both parties to begin negotiations regarding this dispute.

Attitudes within the United Kingdom

During the 1982 war some anti-war commentators claimed that for the same amount of money that Britain was spending on the war it would have been possible to relocate the entire population of the Falklands to Scotland and give them a house and a million pounds each.Fact|date=March 2008

Those defending the government policy countered that as the population of the Falklands were overwhelmingly in favour of the Islands remaining British as it would be wrong for the Government to relocate them from their homeland. Similar reasoning is used to defend British policy in Gibraltar and Northern Ireland.

In addition, many Britons felt strongly that a surrender of sovereignty in the face of Argentina's actions would have signaled the end of any pretensions that Britain may have had to act as a global power, whether at the time or into the future. [The Sunday Times, Insight Team. "The Falklands War, Sphere Books, (1982) - p262".]

Attitudes within Argentina

Some Argentines favour dialogue and reconciliation between the Argentines and the Falklanders, [ [] Falklands-Malvinas Discussion Forum. (An Argentine-Falklander reconciliation project running since 1997; hosted by Nora Femenia, an Argentine expert in mediation and conflict resolution theory.)] or support the Falklander right of self-determination, as does for instance Carlos Escudé who was an advisor to the Argentine Foreign Minister Guido Di Tella. [ [] Marcia Carmo, The inhabitants are sovereign, says Argentine analyst. (Article published in the BBC Brazil site on 31 March 2002; the interviewed Argentine political scientist Carlos Escudé was a special advisor to Foreign Minister Guido Di Tella in President Carlos Menem’s administration; in Portuguese.)]


External links

* [ Article in The Times regarding Argentine going hardline in the Falklands issue]


* "The Battle for the Falklands" by Max Hastings and Simon Jenkins (Pan, 1997) ISBN 0-330-35284-9
* [ BBC News- 1977 British Naval Expedition]
* L.L. Ivanov et al, "The Future of the Falkland Islands and Its People", Double T Publishers, Sofia, 2003, 96 pp. ( [ Complete text] ) ISBN 954-91503-1-3)
* [ Historia de las Relaciones Exteriores Argentinas, Obra dirigida por Carlos Escudé y Andrés Cisneros, desarrollada y publicada bajo los auspicios del Consejo Argentino para las Relaciones Internacionales (CARI), GEL/Nuevohacer (Buenos Aires), 2000.]
* [] US Marine Corps Staff College Research Paper of 1987, by Lt Cdr Richard D Chenette, USN

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