Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman listens to a
question during a news conference at the residence of the
Argentine ambassador in London. REUTERS/Andrew Winning
Argentina has stepped up its row with Britain over the
Falklands, its foreign minister thanking God for the decline of
the British Empire and vowing to prosecute oil firms exploring
off the remote South Atlantic islands.
In a defiant news conference, held in London but conducted in
Spanish, Hector Timerman called Britain the "greatest
colonial empire from the 19th century ... that thank God has
been defeated worldwide".
He insisted the islands' roughly 3,000 British inhabitants
should not be referred to as Falklanders, but as "British
inhabitants of the Malvinas islands", the name Argentina uses
for the remote territory some 300 miles off its coast.
Timerman has refused to meet British Foreign Secretary
William Hague to discuss the islands because of Britain's
insistence that Falklands residents be present, part of what
London says is their right to self-determination, but a
condition Timerman referred to as an "ultimatum".
"The United Nations is very clear. Self-determination applies
to a native people, not to people that have been implanted,"
he said at a news conference titled "Meeting of European
Pro-Dialogue Groups on the Malvinas Question".
"I have left an invitation for him (Hague) to go to Buenos
Aires without any ultimatum, without any conditions so that
we can meet as two friendly countries for dialogue," he
added, speaking through a translator at the ambassador's
Britain fought a 10-week war to eject Argentinian forces who
invaded the islands in 1982. The Falklands are part of
Britain's self-governing territories, and Buenos Aires has
ramped up efforts to stake its claim to the territory as
London-listed firms seek to tap oil and gas deposits around
Timerman arrived in London this week to make the case for
Argentine ownership of the islands, but has met a mostly
hostile response, with British lawmakers on Tuesday accusing
him of "megaphone diplomacy" and using "offensive" arguments.
Hague said it was a shame Timerman was unwilling to attend a
meeting with him and Falkland Island representatives.
"There is no way such a conversation could have taken place
without members of the Falkland Islands government being
present, especially given the current Argentine government's
behaviour towards the Islanders. It is, and must always be,
for them to decide their own future," Hague said in a
A referendum on the Falklands' future is scheduled for March,
a vote in which the islanders are almost certain to choose to
remain British, and which Timerman likened to asking Israeli
settlers whether they want to be Israeli or Palestinian.
Timerman, 59, batted away suggestions from British reporters
that Argentina was also a colonial power, its settler
pioneers having colonised land once belonging to indigenous
Indians, a comparison Timerman labelled "audacious".
On Tuesday he ruled out any future military efforts to seize
the Falklands, but said he was confident negotiations would
lead to Argentine ownership of the islands within 20 years.
Argentina has tried to deter ships from travelling to the
Falklands, banning Falklands-flagged ships and other vessels
involved in trade with the islands from stopping at its
On Wednesday Timerman vowed to take legal action to stop
energy firms from exploring for oil and gas around the
islands, accusing them of stealing Argentine resources and
not being capable of guarding against accidental oil spills.
"We will continue the legal action against the oil companies
who are doing hydrocarbon-related exploration activities in
the south Atlantic, because they are stealing part of the
natural resources of Argentina," he said.
Argentine hostility has not deterred companies and the
islands are set to start producing their first oil in 2017 .
Rockhopper Exploration has formed a $1 billion partnership
with Premier Oil to pump oil from its find north of the
Last month, another British firm, Borders and Southern
Petroleum, said its gas condensate discovery in the Falkland
Islands was also commercially viable.