2 February 2012, 15:52

Confrontation zone: Falkland Islands

Confrontation zone: Falkland Islands

Thirty years after the Falklands war, Great Britain and Argentina are drifting to yet another standoff over the disputed islands amid heightened political tensions and discovery of oil fields off the Falkland's coast.

British Prime Minister David Cameron has accused Argentina of what he has described as Argentina’s colonization of this disputed territory. The rift has grown even wider as London announced its plans to dispatch its new destroyer-class warship to the islands and assign Prince William for a six- week mission as a Royal Air Force pilot at the local military base.

Buenos Aires can hardly overplay the political subtext behind these moves. It has denounced the arrival of the heir to the British throne, dressed in a military attire, as a provocation on the part of London, which is trying to justify its military presence on the occupied Falkland Islands. In the statement, titled "More Diplomacy Less Weapons," Argentina’s foreign ministry slammed Britain, which, it said, was attempting to escalate the conflict, instead of solving it by means of bilateral talks as a number UN resolutions suggested. Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner couldn’t hide her resentment at Britain’s portraying Argentina as colonialists.

Islas Malvinas, as the Falkland Islands are called in the Hispanic world, have been the focal point of an ever-deepening controversy between Argentine and Great Britain for over 180 years. In 1982, Argentine sent in a commando to retake the islands – an attempt only foiled by hastily dispatched British troops. Recent discovery of large oil fields off the Falklands shore has flared off another round of heightened tensions between the two world powers.

Boris Martynov, a Russian Latin America expert, believes this new twist to the old conflict signals it was time for the two parties, particularly the UK, to sit down at the negotiating table, all the more so because Argentina will only gain a better foothold there, being the major regional power that is propped up by the vast Hispanic community, such as Brazil. This time, Great Britain can hardly count on the United States – as was the case thirty years ago. The US, which has found itself juggling several problem-ridden regions, including Iran, is now more than reluctant to let itself be dragged into yet another gamble to impress the public. Dr. Martynov suggests Argentina and Britain better engage in urgent talks, without spreading themselves too thin, to finally draw a line under this two-century-old standoff. 

A propos, militarization won’t divert people’s attention from the economic crisis and high unemployment that have engulfed Great Britain. Argentine isn’t doing any better either, wrestling with problems that require both time and budget expenses. Hence, peace talks should come in lieu of mutual charges of colonialism and encroachment on land and resources. 

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