Argentina ends Falklands oil deal with the UK ahead of war anniversary

The accord had been signed in 1995 to explore for oil near the archipelago in the South Atlantic Ocean.

Days before Argentina and Britain will mark the 25th anniversary of the Falklands War (or Malvinas for Argentineans), Buenos Aires ended an agreement with the United Kingdom to explore for oil near the disputed archipelago. The deal, signed in 1995, aimed at encouraging cooperation on oil prospecting around the islands, but did not succeed, which means that the Argentinean move will have no direct effects in the bilateral ties.

Argentina took the step after "unilateral" British efforts to drill for oil, Foreign Minister Jorge Taiana said. "The Argentine decision brings an end ... to an instrument the United Kingdom sought to use to justify its illegitimate and unilateral action to explore for resources that belong to Argentines," he said.

However, the decision, taken a few days before the anniversary of the war is a symbolic gesture as part of President Nestor Kirchner’s attempts to stepped up calls for Britain to discuss the issue of sovereignty over the Islands. At the time the deal was signed, Argentina and Britain were trying to renew bilateral ties without mentioning the issue of sovereignty.

But Buenos Aires has moved from its previous strategy and is now willing to discuss the issue. Last year, Argentina criticised a British decision extending fishing licenses from one to 25 years in waters around the Falklands, saying it disregarded Argentina's territorial claims.

"Argentina is not opposed to cooperating with the United Kingdom, but only if this contributes to renewing dialogue over sovereignty," Taiana said.

Britain's embassy in Buenos Aires, in a statement Wednesday, said it hoped Argentina would reconsider its decision and that Britain remained interested in working with the South American country. In London, the British Foreign Office “regretted” Argentina’s decision, as warned that it would not help in its claim for sovereignty”.

Today, the Falklands (or Malvinas), are being populated by 2,900 people of mostly British ancestry. However, the Islands were inherited by Argentina from the Spanish crown before they were occupied by Britain in 1833. Argentina has claimed sovereignty, since then.

On April 2, 1982, Argentina, under a military rule, invaded the islands. In response, Britain dispatched a naval task force, and a 10-week war ensued that killed around 700 Argentine and 255 British troops before Argentina's forces surrendered.

Argentina and Britain resumed diplomatic ties in 1990, but the South American country still lays claim to the Falklands. Britain says the islands' status will not change as long as their inhabitants wish to remain part of Britain.

Hernan Etchaleco

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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov