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Americas

Argentina brands Prince William a 'conqueror' in Falklands row

Text by Ben MCPARTLAND

Latest update : 2012-02-01

Prince William was thrust to the centre of an ongoing war of words over the disputed Falkland Islands this week. Buenos Aires said the prince would be wearing ‘the uniform of a conqueror’ when he lands on the islands later this month.

Argentina branded Prince William ‘a conqueror’ as its rift with the UK over the disputed Falkland Islands deepened this week.

The Foreign Ministry in Buenos Aires also accused Britain of trying to ‘militarise’ the conflict after London’s decision to dispatch the naval destroyer HMS Dauntless to the South Atlantic region.

In a statement released Tuesday, the Argentine ministry took particular issue with the stationing of Prince William, an heir to the British throne, on islands whose sovereignty it claims.

The prince, a Royal Air Force helicopter pilot, would arrive in the Falklands wearing "the uniform of a conqueror" and not “with the wisdom of a statesman who works for peace and dialogue between nations,” the ministry statement read.

The flare-up marks a new low in increasingly fraught relations between Great Britain and Argentina. The dispute is making front-page news on both sides of the Atlantic.

Argentina has laid claim to the islands it calls the Malvinas ever since Britain seized them around 180 years ago. In 1982 the two countries fought a 74-day war after Argentina invaded the islands.

Emotions are running high in the run-up to the thirtieth anniversary of the outbreak of war on April 2.

Political gain to be made

Argentine specialist Francisco Panizza from the London School of Economics believes the UK's David Cameron and Argentina's Cristina Fernandez-Kirchner are benefitting from the ongoing row domestically.

“Cameron has been playing the nationalist card on this issue and it has resonations of Margaret Thatcher,” said Professor Panizza. “It plays to the right of the Tory party and it is a way of winning key political capital. It is the same in Argentina.”

Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague tried to play down the deployment of HMS Dauntless, claiming it was a “routine replacement of another ship”. Hague did issue a veiled threat, saying the “Royal Navy packed a very heavy punch”.

The Argentine Foreign Ministry responded:  “The Republic of Argentina rejects the attempts by Britain to militarise a conflict which the United Nations has said on multiple occasions should be resolved through bilateral negotiations,” the statement read.

Sovereignty in question

In recent months Argentina has won support over the Falklands from its neighbours. In December the South American trading bloc Mercosur agreed to close its ports to ships flying Falklands flags.

This time, it was David Cameron saying Argentina was acting like a “colonial” power over the islands.

“It is important for Britain to send a clear message that as long as people in the Falklands want to remain British, we respect that right of self-determination,” Cameron said.

Argentina, backed by the United Nations and the United States, wants to enter into negotiations over the issue of sovereignty of the islands. London has always remained adamant that sovereignty is non-negotiable.

“There are two irreconcilable claims to sovereignty,” said Panizza. “If you have economic disputes you can negotiate and go fifty-fifty for example, but with sovereignty you cannot do that. It is not negotiable, which is what makes this so difficult.

The Argentine president vowed this week to continue to pursue negotiations with Britain.

Fernandez said: “The fact we want discussions on the Malvinas does not mean the islanders have to cease being British, nor [that] the Italians in Argentina have to cease being Italian, or the Spanish, or the Ukrainians.”

Falkland Islands specialist Dr Matt Benwell of the University of Liverpool said the voice of the islanders needed to be heard above those of politicians.

“They are important players in all of this. It is often the islanders who suffer the consequences of the diplomatic disputes and tit-for-tat actions,” Benwell told FRANCE 24.

Date created : 2012-02-01

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