Tensions high on 30th anniversary of Falklands war
Thirty years may have passed since Argentina’s invasion sparked the start of the Falklands War with Britain but the animosity between the two nations continues to deepen and the conflict looks increasingly unlikely to be solved.
Britain and Argentina commemorate the 30th anniversary of the start of the Falklands War on Monday amid escalating tensions between the two countries.
April 2 marks three decades since Argentina’s invasion of the South Atlantic archipelago but the dispute over the sovereignty of the Falklands appears more intense that at any point since the 74-day war ended with Argentine defeat.
The run-up to the anniversary has been marked by deteriorating relations between London and Buenos Aires as Argentina's president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner continues to press her country's claims for control of the territory.
With the Falklands possessing potentially lucrative oil reserves and Britain refusing to even discuss sovereignty the row seems only set to deepen over the coming months.
“We are further away than before the war to solving this conflict,” Dr Francisco Panizza senior lecture in Latin American Politics at London’s LSE told FRANCE 24 on the eve of Monday’s anniversary.
“Before the war Britain was prepared to discuss the issue but since the conflict there is no way any British government of any party will discuss sovereignty,” he added.
In the latest Argentine salvo last week a number of British and American banks were warned they faced legal action in Argentine courts for advising those oil companies seeking to exploit the lucrative supplies of ‘black gold’ around the islands.
In an unsigned letter sent from the Argentine Embassy in London, Buenos Aires warned as many as 15 banks that if they continued to carry out research on Falkland Island's oil companies it would be a ‘violation of international rules’. The letter also threatened legal action against the oil companies themselves.
Last month Argentina’s efforts to unite South America against the UK also gained momentum. After countries including Brazil agreed to bar ships flying the Falkland’s flag from docking at its ports, Peru showed further solidarity with Buenos Aires by cancelling a planned visit by a British Navy warship to Lima.
These developments come after Argentina complained to the United Nations in February that Britain was ‘militarising’ the conflict after sending a modern warship to the archipelago. Buenos Aires also accused Britain of secretly dispatching a nuclear armed submarine, though this was denied by London.
Prince William, a Royal Air Force rescue pilot, was also described as a ‘conqueror’ by Argentina when he was sent to the South Atlantic for a temporary posting.
‘Britain will never enter discussions’
The recent flare-up between the two nations can be traced back to 2010 when Britain authorised oil companies to explore potentially lucrative oil reserves in Falkland waters.
An investigation by the British Geological survey in 1993 estimated there was enough oil to produce half a million barrels a day.
The exploration of the oil fields was soon followed by a war of words between London and Buenos Aires. Last year Prime Minister David Cameron accused Argentina of acting like a ‘colonial power’ in their pursuit of the islands.
Fernandez responded by calling Cameron ‘stupid’ for refusing to enter into discussions over sovereignty through the United Nations.
“I cannot see how this conflict can be solved in the foreseeable future,” Panizza told FRANCE 24. “There is no way the United Nations Security Council, in which Britain has a veto, will ever force London to discuss the question of sovereignty.”
Analysts have argued the rising tensions are also linked to both country's economic woes with Cameron and Kirchner playing the ‘nationalist card’ to divert the public’s attention from the financial crisis.
“The diplomatic row has been much more heated this year and that is mainly to do with the Kirchner government,” Panizza said. “The issue has always been high on their agenda but now Argentina has some economic problems and the Falkland issue is a way of appealing to national unity.”
‘People are nervous and on edge’
On Monday and over the coming months the two countries will honour those who died in the conflict – 649 on the Argentine side, 255 British and three Falkland Islanders.
Fernandez is due to attend a ceremony in the city of Ushuaia in the province of Tierra del Fuego, which counts the Malvinas as part of its jurisdiction. She will unveil a cenotaph and an eternal flame in the city’s Plaza ‘Malvinas Argentinas’.
According to South American-based news agency Mercopress, Fernandez will also address the nation on TV during which she is expected to again accuse the “colonial” UK of “exploiting Argentina’s natural resources”.
Left-wing groups have organised a march on the British Embassy in Buenos Aires, where a recent demonstration saw the burning of the Union Jack flag.
In the Falkland Islands themselves various commemorations of the conflict will culminate with a parade in the island’s capital Port Stanley on June 14 to mark the day Argentina surrendered. Britain will also mark the war with a series of events including a service in St Paul's Cathedral on June 16 where wreaths will be laid.
Thirty years may have passed since Argentina’s military junta ordered the invasion of the islands but political tensions mean memories of that day are still raw among residents.
“Although 30 years is quite a while a long time, on the other hand it's yesterday,” islander Tony Smith said. “As soon as you start making threats all that comes back again. It makes people nervous. It puts people on edge.”