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Argentina rejects UK proposal to discuss Falklands with islanders

Argentina rejects UK proposal to discuss Falklands with islanders
A fresh diplomatic spat has blown up over the Falkland Islands as the Argentine foreign minister declined to take part in talks with his UK counterpart William Hague, after Britain’s insistence that the islanders take part in the meeting.

In an open letter to Hague, Timerman objected to the UK’s proposals that the islanders must be present, and said: "I lament your letter of yesterday stating you cannot meet without the supervision of the colonists from the Malvinas," using the Argentine term for the islands.

The UK Foreign Office said it was “massively disappointed” with the Argentine decision and said it would be “unthinkable” not to include the islanders.

Representatives of the Falkland Islands government were due to fly to London this weekend to tell Timerman that Argentina should respect the islander’s rights to decide their own sovereignty.

However, Timerman, who had initially asked for a one-on-one meeting with William Hague, said he would not meet representatives from the island’s government, which Argentina does not recognize as legitimate.

Timerman stressed that the UN regards the dispute over the islands as a bilateral issue between Buenos Aires and London and said he was sorry Hague could not “meet without the supervision of the colonists from the Malvinas.”

In response, Timerman invited Hague to meet him in Buenos Aires, where, “my fellow foreign ministers can freely meet with whomever they wish without being persecuted or having their presence conditioned on meetings they haven’t asked for and don’t interest them,” he said.

The UK Foreign Office reiterated its position.

“We are not prepared to have a meeting where the Falkland Islanders are not mentioned,” a foreign office spokesman said Friday morning.

The presence of the islanders appears to be a new condition set down by Britain and comes amidst rising tension between the two countries over the fate of the islands in recent months.

In a statement released before the meeting was aborted with Timerman, Dick Sawle and Jan Cheek, representatives of the legislative assembly of the Falkland Islands, stressed that they would not be “negotiating any deal”.

“Indeed we look forward to giving Mr Timerman some very direct messages on the unacceptability of Argentina’s actions against the Falkland Islands in recent years. We demand that our rights be respected and that we be left in peace to choose our own future,” the statement said.

They added that the result of a referendum on the future sovereignty of the islands due to be held in March will demonstrate that the islanders wish to remain part of the UK.

But they said they are ready to meet with the Argentine government to “discuss matters of mutual interest including fisheries and communication.”

The Argentinian president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, has reasserted her country’s claim to the islands, which she says were illegally colonized by Britain in the early 19th century, regardless of the opposition of the islanders, who are all of British origin.

Last month she took out an advert in a British newspaper claiming that Argentina had been robbed of the islands in “a blatant exercise of 19th century colonialism”.

The majority of Argentinians support their government’s claim over the islands.

Britain and Argentina went to war over the islands in 1982 when the Argentinian government of General Leopold Galtieri took the islands by force and Britain sent a military task force to the South Atlantic to retake them, resulting in the deaths of 649 Argentinian and 255 British personnel, as well as 3 islanders.