This column is not about the Falkland Island Olympic Games team competing in London.
Rather that the president of Argentina will not attend the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in a diplomatic snub to Britain as tensions increase over the disputed territorial claims about the Falkland Islands.
The London 2012 Olympic Games will attract more heads of state and foreign dignitaries than any other previous Olympic games, but Argentine president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner will be absent.
The Argentine embassy in London confirmed today that President Fernandez would not be attending at any time during the London 2012 Games. The spokesman declined to confirm that the decision was a deliberate diplomatic snub to Britain.
Argentina’s first female president has taken an increasingly hard line on the issue of sovreignty the Falkland Islands, which both London and Buenos Aires claim as sovereign territory. The relationship between Britain and Argentina has deteriorated as President Fernandez increases pressure on London as the 30th anniversary of the Falklands War approaches. The Argentine government produced a provocative advertisement showing their athletes proportedly training in the Falklands. The advert contained this statement, “To compete on English soil, we train on Argentine soil.” This author believes, considering the bilateral tension as a result of the sovreignty issue, that the ads were not actually filmed in the Falklands, rather somewhere in Argentina, perhaps using Falklands footage.
Britain response to the adverts was one of anger, with prime minister David Cameron supposedly having a number of disagreements with his Argentine counterpart during the G20 conference in Mexico.
Interestingly, despite the political posturing, Jane’s Intelligence Weekly which produces fortnightly security alerts for various parts of the world, believes the chance of renewed conflct is remote. Their assessment of the situation is found below:
“Increasing impatience in London concerning Argentina’s renewed sovereignty offensive over the Islands. With UK-Argentina relations now at their lowest ebb since the 1982 conflict, a decision by the MERCOSUR trade grouping to deny port access to Falklands-flagged shipping has further irked London. This comes in addition to increasing Argentine naval harassment of Falklands and Spanish vessels headed for the Uruguayan port of Montevideo. The situation has deteriorated beyond the usual levels of rhetoric, and further escalatory Argentine actions – including the proxy use of ultra-nationalist groups to undertake provocative actions over the holiday season – remain an outside possibility. Nevertheless, a return to military conflict remains remote.”
There are approximately 1,300 military personnel serving in the Falklands drawn from all four armed services; Army, Royal Navy, RAF and Royal Marines. These are augmented by a Falkland Island Territorial (Reserve) Army unit.
The decision of a number of South American countries to close their ports to Falklands flagged shipping does not affect RN or UK vessels. It only affects ships sailing under a Falklands flag. Since this restriction was announced, HMS Protector, an ice patrol vessel on a scientific mission to the South Atlantic, made a routine port visit to Montevideo in Uruguay in early January 2012. The Vice President of the Uruguayan Ports Authority, Juan Jose Dominguez, confirmed that HMS Protector was welcome, and had full permission to visit Montevideo, he stated “the issue is the flying of a Malvinas [Falkland Islands] flag.”
The Argentine claim is included in the transitional provisions of the Constitution of Agrentina (as amended) in 1994:
“The Argentine Nation ratifies its legitimate and non-prescribing sovereignty over the Malvinas, Georgias del Sur and Sandwich del Sur Islands and over the corresponding maritime and insular zones, as they are an integral part of the National territory. The recovery of these territories and the full exercise of sovereignty, respecting the way of life for its inhabitants and according to the principles of international law, constitute a permanent and unwavering goal of the Argentine people”.
The Falkland Islands Constitution, which came into force on 1 January 2009, claims the right to self-determination, stating that:
“All peoples have the right to self-determination and by virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development and may, for their own ends, freely dispose of their natural wealth and resources without prejudice to any obligations arising out of international economic co-operation, based upon the principle of mutual benefit and international law; The realisation of the right of self-determination must be promoted and respected in conformity with the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations”.
The UK government is committed to supporting the Falkland Islanders right to self-determination.
As the diplomatic conflict continues, it appears that a return to armed conflict appears unlikely. However, if you think that Britain will not protect the Falklands should Argentina invade the islands…think again!