Britain protested over US official’s ‘Malvinas’ barb

Mar 10, 2010
Tim Edwards

Whitehall angered afterUS State Dept spokesmancalls the Falklands by theirArgentine name

BRITAIN was forced to issue at least three formal diplomatic protests to the United States last month after a State Department official called the Falklands ‘Las Malvinas’, the Argentine name for the disputed islands.
Until now the British embassy in Washington has said it only spoke to US officials informally about their position on the Falklands after Argentina accused Britain of violating its sovereignty by drilling for oil in the ocean off the islands.
But the Times claims today that ‘demarches’ were made after a State Department spokesman answered the question of why the US was remaining neutral despite Britain’s long history of ownership of the Falkland Islands by saying “whatever you want to call them” and then calling them the “Islas Malvinas”.
A British embassy official told the Times that “nobody has been writing any formal letters” and claimed Britain was “genuinely quite relaxed”, but in truth London has grown increasingly worried about the United States’ attitude towards the Falklands.
Tensions increased after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton turned what should have been a 10-minute encounter with Argentinian president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner on the fringes of a conference in Uruguay into a two-hour meeting in Buenos Aires.
At the meeting, Clinton encouraged negotiations between Britain and Argentina – something London had already ruled out.
The Obama administration is facing increasing criticism of its handling of the issue from American conservatives. Richard Perle, the assistant Secretary for Defence in 1982 when President Reagan provided intelligence to Britain during the Falklands War, told the Times: “I think using the description Malvinas is offensive to British interests.”
And while British embassy officials may be quite relaxed about the ‘Malvinas’ spat, the same cannot be said of their counterparts in Whitehall.

The Wall Street Journal ran an editorial supporting the British position yesterday. It quoted a “senior Whitehall official” as saying: "After everything we have done with the Americans since September 11, the least we expected was a bit of moral support from Washington. But Mrs Clinton appears to have her own agenda on this issue."

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