Argentine President Fernandez demands return of Falklands

Fernandez's flagging popularity at home is thought to be behind her open letter to David Cameron

LAST UPDATED AT 10:09 ON Thu 3 Jan 2013

THE TENSE issue of the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands has been pushed to the top of the political agenda after Argentina's President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner published an open letter demanding the return of ‘Las Malvinas' to Argentina.

President Fernández's move was designed to "embarrass" the UK into negotiations, according to The Guardian, where the open letter to David Cameron appeared in a paid-for advertisement.

Fernández said it was exactly 180 years ago to the day that the Royal Navy "expelled" Argentinians living on the islands "in a blatant exercise of 19th century colonianism". She noted that the Falklands are 8,700 miles away from London and called on Britain to abide by a 1960 UN resolution which urged member states to "end colonialism in all its forms and manifestations".

The letter – which attracted over 1,000 comments on The Guardian's website - comes ahead of a referendum on 10-11 March in which the 3,000 Falkland islanders will be asked if they want to continue to be British. PM David Cameron said the UK would "respect and defend" the result of the referendum.

The attack may be intended to deflect attention from Fernández's flagging popularity in the polls ahead of Argentine elections in October, with inflation and corruption real concerns, says the Daily Mail.

The result of the March referendum is almost certain to be in favour of the Falklands remaining British. Dr Barry Elsby, a member of the Legislative Assembly of the Falklands, told the Daily Telegraph: "We are not a colony – our relationship with the United Kingdom is by choice."

Argentina is fighting to convince the islanders to vote the other way. As the Buenos Aires Herald reports, Argentina's ambassador to London, Alicia Castro, has been called to Buenos Aires to help devise an "anti-referendum" campaign.

Fernández's letter follows the British government's controversial decision in December to name a part of Antarctica after the Queen – Argentina also lays claim to what is now Queen Elizabeth Land.

The situation may be worsening but at least one observer has ruled out a repeat of the 1982 Falklands conflict. Robert Munks, deputy editor at Jane's Intelligence Review, said: "Relations are probably at their worst now than at any time since 1982 – but there will not be another war." · 

Disqus - noscript

If it were just a simple matter of land, and assuming their claim is legitimate in law, then the UK would gladly hand over the islands I'm sure.. however it's no longer that simple. over 2 centuries of people have lived there and they now have the right to self-determination. What Argentina is basically asking is a repeat of Britain did 2 centuries ago. Two wrongs don't make a right?

I just hope that Cameron's reckless gamble with the Ark Royal and dozens of very potent and quite serviceable Harriers does not explode in his face - he is terribly inexperienced as a national leader - that failing is exacerbated by his refusal to seek wider advice than that of the sycophants within his inner circle who are, again, inexperienced.

It was the unpopularity of the Argentinian junta, under President Leopold Galtieri, thirty years ago, that finally pushed Argentina over the edge into war over the Falklands/"Malvinas". "Seek a popular foreign war in order to unite the populace at home" is the maxim in Argentina today, as it was thirty years ago.

The danger for the Falkland Islanders is that they have only the military defence assets that they now have in place on the islands - to reinforce and to retake the Falklands for a second time would be a sheer waste of British lives and, probably, not at all feasible- not least, because the coming (and, for me) expected re-invasion of the Falklands by Argentina could have been easily avoided.

Britain, by assuming a posture of (seeming) measured indifference to a fiery and proud Latin nation risks encouraging the Argentinians to "chance their luck" in a very popular cause.

Has Argentina collapsed yet ? Frau Kirchner has other things to worry about than just Lebensraum in other people's countries.

Your names Christina not 'Maggie'. The Falklands won't work for you like they did for Maggie, love. PS, how's about lowering the cost of Corned Beef eh? Miss my corned beef hash, I do.

For further concise, balanced comment and analysis on the week's news, try The Week magazine. Subscribe today and get 6 issues completely free.