Oil grab at Las Malvinas
Oil grab at Las Malvinas

A war of words has erupted between the British government and Argentina over the icy and remote British colony known in English as the Falkland Islands, which lie 290 miles off the coast of Argentina.

Argentina’s president Cristina Fernandez accused Britain on Tuesday of “militarising the South Atlantic” and said she would complain to the United Nations.

Oil exploration by British companies off the islands has prompted the increased British military presence in the area. Up 60 billion barrels of crude oil could be found underneath the sea bed, according to preliminary studies.

Ms Fernandez condemned British plans to deploy one of its most advanced destroyers, HMS Dauntless, to the area. She also criticised the posting of Prince William, second in line to the British throne, to the islands as a ‘search-and-rescue pilot’.

Britain has occupied Argentina’s offshore islands since 1833, and has recently claimed ownership of the maritime areas adjacent to the islands.

However, Argentina considers the islands part of its province of Tierra del Fuego, and insists Britain’s claim to the islands is contrary to UN law.

Britain has denied militarizing the South Atlantic and says its “defensive posture” in the islands remains unchanged. Prime minister David Cameron said islanders would have London’s backing for as long as they wished to remain British.

“Argentina will find when she goes to the United Nations that it is an absolutely key part of the United Nations charter to support self-determination,” Mr Cameron told a news conference.

“The people of the Falkland Islands want to maintain ... their connection to the United Kingdom.

“As long as the people in the Falkland Islands want to maintain that status, we will make sure that they do and we will defend the Falkland Islands properly to make sure that is the case.”

Britain went to war with Argentina over the Falkland Islands, called Las Malvinas in Argentina, in 1982. London has refused to start talks on sovereignty with Argentina unless the roughly 3,000 islanders want them.

Argentine foreign minister Hector Timerman will present the country’s complaint to the UN Security Council’s president later this week.

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