Milei Vows To Restore Argentina’s Sovereignty Over The Falklands

On January 3rd, Javier Milei, President of Argentina led a demonstration in Buenos Aires in commemoration of the 191st anniversary of the British occupation of the Falkland Islands (or Las Malvinas, as they are called in Argentina), vowing to reclaim the sovereignty of the archipelago. Milei’s tough stance on the issue was one of the key points of his election programme. After assuming the presidency, the rhetoric has not lost its toughness, as the hardline Argentinian President seeks to resuscitate the issue that has beset Argentina-UK relations for decades.

Manuel Adorni, the Casa Rosada spokesperson, reiterated the President’s claim in an official press conference. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Argentina also issued an official statement claiming the “lawful and indefeasible sovereignty rights of the Government and the people of Argentina over the Malvinas (Falklands), South Georgia, and the South Sandwich Islands and their adjacent maritime areas”.

In spite of Milei’s harsh rhetoric, he seeks to gain sovereignty over the archipelago through diplomatic means and does not want to sever relations with Great Britain against the background of the country’s new policy aimed at enhancing relations with the Western world. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ statement reads that the country seeks to resume the negotiation process with Great Britain in order to “find a peaceful solution to the sovereignty dispute over the Malvinas (Falklands)”. Argentina also intends to use the Good Offices missions assigned by the UN General Assembly to the UN Secretary-General as one of the mechanisms for solving the issue.

malvinas-1The Falklands (Malvinas) issue has gained traction lately, as the EU and Latin America held a joint summit and adopted a declaration, which referred to the South Atlantic archipelago as “the Islas Malvinas/Falkland Islands”, what has been seen as a diplomatic breakthrough for Argentina. The UK, in turn, was disappointed with the “regrettable choice of words”.

All in all, Milei’s calls for reopening the negotiation process have not found a positive response in Great Britain so far. UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s official spokesperson said two months ago that “the UK has no doubt about the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands” and reiterated that the “issue was settled decisively some time ago”, referring to the 1982 Falklands war between Argentina and Great Britain and the 2013 referendum that saw 99.8% of voters opt to remain a British territory, with only three votes against.

The UK Government believes that the 2013 referendum constituted the Falkland islanders’ right to self-determination and is committed to defending that right of British overseas citizens. Argentina, in turn, believes that the islands have been illegally occupied by the British since 1833 and rejects the notion of self-determination for the inhabitants as they do not constitute a separate people in accordance with the resolutions passed by the UN bodies. Over the last four decades, the UN has adopted over 50 resolutions on the Falklands (Malvinas) issue, none of which recognize the existence of a separate people on the territory of the archipelago. The UK’s claim to mention the right to self-determination of the islanders in what became Resolution 40/21 has been outright rejected by the UN General Assembly. Argentina believes that the UK has manipulated the principle of self-determination and sees the Falklands (Malvinas) issue as part of the process of decolonization.

In 1985, a permanent British military base, RAF Mount Pleasant, was established on the Falklands, which stations up to 1,700 military and civilian personnel, four Typhoon jets, and other aircrafts. Additionally, a Royal Navy vessel, HMS Forth, is attached to the Falklands to ensure their security. In March 2022, James Heappey, UK Minister of Defence, confirmed that regular assessments of possible threats to the Falkland Islands are being undertaken in order to ensure the safety of the archipelago. In April 2023, a major £7m refurbishment project was completed at the Mount Pleasant Complex airfield, with the runway getting a major overhaul, as the RAF base remains one of Britain’s key military bases in the South Atlantic, ensuring the country’s global military presence.

The Falklands (Malvinas) Islands constitute an archipelago with an area of 12,000 km2 and a population of around 3,600 people. The islands are located 480 km east of Patagonia in Southern Argentina and about 13,000 km away from London. The dispute between Argentina and Great Britain over the ownership of the islands has continued with varying intensity for two centuries.

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