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United Kingdom accuses Argentines of harassing Falklands

The Americas Post - Guess what the argument is really about? Photo Credit: Rockhopper

Britain denounced Argentina for intimidation against the people of the Falkland Islands on Friday, after Buenos Aires announced legal action against companies conducting oil exploration in the disputed South Atlantic protectorate.

Tensions between the two countries have increased approaching the thirtieth anniversary of the Argentine invasion in the Falklands, a conflict that killed 650 Argentines and 255 British soldiers.

The dispute has been revived by the discovery of oil in the islands, which analysts estimate could value 167 billion dollars.

Argentina said Thursday that it would present legal action against any company involved in oil exploration off the coast of the islands, in a bid to pressure London into discussing their claim of sovereignty.

A spokesman for Prime Minister David Cameron described Argentina’s decision as “regrettable” and the Foreign Ministry said that the Falklands had the right to develop its petroleum resources without interference.

“Argentina’s efforts to intimidate the Falklands are illegal, inappropriate and totally counterproductive,” said a ministry spokesman.  The Foreign Ministry will work with all affected companies to limit the impact of the Argentine legal measures, he added.

London has refused to discuss sovereignty of the islands unless required by its 3,000 inhabitants, who have shown no signs of wanting to do so.

The British explorer Rockhopper, who discovered the site north of Sea Lion Island in 2010, has sought a partner to invest in a project of 2,000 million dollars.  Meanwhile, Borders & Southern and Falkland Oil & Gas is preparing to drill wells south of the island this year.

An industry source in London said on Thursday that legal action against companies involved in oil exploration in the Falklands “will not impact Rockhopper operations”.

Argentina asserts that the exploration and drilling are illegal because it is a disputed area, but the government did not specify what type of legal action it had in mind.

Britain says that the recent decisions in Argentina are an attempt to impose an economic blockade on the remote archipelago. In December, South American trade bloc Mercosur agreed to block ships sailing under the flag of the islands from any of its ports, in solidarity with Argentina.

This month, Argentina said it wanted to renegotiate a 1999 agreement with Britain that allows weekly flights by Chilean airline Lan to the islands and suggested that the state Aerolineas Argentinas fly into the territory.

In February, Argentina filed a complaint at the United Nations for what it considers the “militarization” of the South Atlantic by Britain, after London announced plans to send a destroyer to the area.

Buenos Aires also criticized the mission of Prince William, second in line of succession to the throne, to the islands in his capacity as a search and rescue military pilot.