Fri | Dec 9, 2016

Help us, JA

Published:Sunday | December 7, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Argentina seeks the backing of Jamaica as it steps up efforts to reclaim Falkland Islands/Malvinas

Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer

MEXICO:Jamaica is among Latin American and Caribbean states being urged by Argentina to extend a hand of solidarity in its ongoing conflict with Britain over disputed islands that the Argentines refer to as the Malvinas and the British call the Falkland Islands.

Last week, senior journalists from Jamaica and other countries in the hemisphere were invited to a special gathering in Mexico where Argentine officials aired fresh grouses on the protracted territorial stand-off.

"We appreciate the high level of support that we have been getting," said Daniel Filmus, the minister who has been given the mandate to lead the fight for the disputed territory.

That the Argentine Government, has, for the first time in its history, appointed such a minister underscores its persistence in fleshing out a beneficial solution to the century-old dispute.

The conflict has, in recent times, taken on added dimension as the prospects of oil reserves surface in to the equation.

As a member of the Community of Latin America and the Caribbean States (CELAC), Jamaica figures prominently in the talks.

The Argentines have pointed to an energy ministers meeting of CELAC member states, held on October 25, 2013 in Montego Bay, Jamaica.

At that meeting, the energy ministers reportedly "reiterated unanimously the strategic nature of natural energy resources and the rights of nations to permanent sovereignty, according to respective legal frameworks".

Minutes of the range of other meetings of Heads of Government States of CELAC that were presented to The Sunday Gleaner have suggested that they have sided with their Latin American counterparts.

The conflict over the island exploded into a full-blown war in 1982 and not even in names are the two antagonists letting go. Despite ongoing talks there is no sign of a resolution.

This has given way to heightened tension, with Britain initiating offshore exploratory drilling for oil with reported promises of positive outcomes.

Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has asserted that he ceased dialogue from as far back as 2007 ahead of his country's explorations.

This is not the case for the leadership of Argentina.

The 1982 war ended with Britain reclaiming the land that Argentina had taken but has never been shunted off the international agenda. Now the matter is back in the international limelight with a vengeance.

"Since 1965 Argentina position is complete," declared Filmus, as he noted that his country continues to accuse Britain of employing bullying tactics.

Filmus charged that the European country has broken every rule in international relations to retain its iron grip on the islands to which Argentina has consistently claimed that it has the right of ownership.

According to Filmus, while talks have been ongoing at the level of the United Nations, Britain's power of veto has prevailed over the efforts of the Latin American state.

Last week, Argentina signalled that it is once again on the warpath, indicating a possible fresh collision course with the more battle-savvy Great Britain.

Filmus charged that since the Malvinas/Falklands were seized from Spain in 1833, "Britain has been exercising its power through weapons".

"No Argentine can go there as they have no status and immigration is controlled," complained Filmus.

With Argentina kicking and screaming for the world to hear, question has been raised over whether another war between the two countries is a reality or if the ongoing verbal battle that has been masquerading as diplomatic interactions over the years will continue.

"We can't fight them at the same level," was Filmus' blunt response.

Filmus, charged with increasing international awareness on the issue, is suggesting that British is motivated not by oil prospects alone but also by the strategic positioning, given the proximity of the islands to the Panama Canal.

Britain has also been accused of illegitimately exploiting not only oil explorations but other forms of biodiversity, including fisheries in the territory as well.

The Argentines lament that the United Nations has turned a blind eye to the numerous international breaches by the British.

They claim that "hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation activities on the continental shelves of the Malvinas are contrary to the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 31/49".

Filmus, however, stressed that it was not commercial interests that have been driving Argentina. "We are not interested in exploration of petroleum, we have our own reserves," he said.

Added Filmus: "Even if it was just a bunch of rocks we would be still be fighting for them. It is not a commercial but a sovereignty issue for us as Argentines, as the islands which are controlled by Britain really belong to us ... this is a question of sovereignty that was snatched illegally."

Filmus told the gathering of international guests in Mexico, including journalists, last week that with Argentina commemorating its 50th anniversary of formal agitation at the level of the United Nations, this is the time for change.

There is also a dispute over the true nationality of the nearly 3,000 people of the Malvinas/Falklands Islands. Filmus charged that the Argentines were chased out of the islands when the British invaded.

A 2012 British census numbered 2,800 inhabitants with another 1,500 British soldiers guarding the islands. "This has brought the ratio of soldier to civilians to the highest level in the world," claimed Filmus.