18/06/2004
Press Release
GA/COL/3105


Decolonization committee says argentina, united kingdom should


renew efforts on falkland islands (malvinas) question


Resolution Seeks Peaceful Solution to Sovereignty Dispute,

Reiterating Commitment to Help Parties Comply with Assembly Request


The Special Committee on Decolonization this morning adopted without a vote a draft resolution on the question of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) (A/AC.109/2004/L.8), requesting the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom to resume as soon as possible a peaceful solution to the sovereignty dispute over the Falkland Islands (Malvinas).


Under the terms of the draft, the Committee reiterated its firm commitment to assist the parties in complying with the request made by the General Assembly in its resolutions on the question of the islands.


Speaking before the adoption of the draft resolution, Rafael Bielsa, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Argentina, recalled that British forces had expelled the Argentine inhabitants and authorities of the MalvinasIslands on January 3, 1883, thereby establishing their illegal occupation of the Islands.  Noting that disruption of the national unity and territorial integrity of any country was incompatible with the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter, he said the United Kingdom’s nineteenth-century violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the independent republic of Argentina meant that the principle of territorial integrity must prevail over that of self-determination.  Since continental Argentines had been prevented from settling on the islands since their expulsion in 1883, granting the island’s inhabitants the right to self-determination would allow the colonial power to justify its usurpation of territory. 


Mr. Bielsa further stressed that the people of Argentina remained fully committed to the peaceful settlement of the dispute and urged the Committee to continue to support the prompt resumption of negotiations on sovereignty.


Petitioners representing the Falkland Islands Government called on the Committee to grant the people of the Falkland Islands the basic right to self-determination -- the right to pursue their own political ambitions and choice of sovereign status.  The draft resolution before the Committee did not take into account the wishes and ambitions of Falkland Islanders and did not respect their right to determine their own future, said Roger Edwards, Legislative Councillor of the Falkland Islands Government.  He said Falkland Islanders did not wish to see a change from British sovereign status and he, therefore, urged all delegates not to adopt the resolution.


Mike Summers, Legislative Councillor of the Falkland Islands Government, added that his country was not a colony, that the people neither felt they lived in a colony, nor did the Government of the United Kingdom treat the Falklands as a colony.  The Falkland Islands (Malvinas) were geographically, geologically, culturally, linguistically and historically different from Argentina.  The international community, he said, must not tolerate those who pursued territorial disputes, while manifestly ignoring the wishes of the people inhabiting, developing and caring for the environment and communities in those territories.


Another petitioner, Alejandro Betts, a former resident of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), said that although the United Kingdom had been in possession of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) since their invasion of the islands in the nineteenth century, it was a legal fact that possession alone did not give legitimacy.  He said the Committee must work to help the United Kingdom to put aside its opposition to negotiation on the status of the Islands, stressing that Argentina’s claim to have her legitimate sovereign rights recognized fell perfectly within international law.


The representative of Cuba, having introduced the draft resolution, said serious negotiations allowing for the definitive and peaceful solution of the question of the Falklands/Malvinas Islands should be undertaken as soon as possible and that any situation in which tensions could rise in the South Atlantic should be avoided.


Henrique Valle of Brazil, speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, reiterated the Group’s support for the work of the Committee to put an end to colonialism, based on Resolution 1514.  It was essential for the two parties to resume negotiations towards a peaceful, just, and lasting solution to the sovereignty dispute, in accordance with resolutions of the General Assembly and of the Special Committee.


Terumi Matsuo De Claverol of Paraguay, speaking on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), Bolivia and Chile, said the MERCOSUR members continued to support the draft resolution, as well as Argentina’s sovereign rights over the Malvinas (Falkland Islands).


Filimone Kau of Fiji said his delegation supported self-determination as the first principle of decolonization, adding that the Committee would at some point have to respect the islanders’ right to self-determination.


The representatives of Uruguay, Peru, Bolivia, Venezuela, Grenada, China, Syria, Indonesia, Congo, Tunisia, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, and the Russian Federation also spoke.


The Special Committee on Decolonization will meet again on Monday next, 21 June, at 10 a.m.


Background


The Special Committee on Decolonization met this morning to consider a draft resolution on the question of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) (A/AC.109/2004/L.8), which requests the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to resume as soon as possible a peaceful solution to the sovereignty dispute relating to the Falkland Islands (Malvinas).


Under the terms of the draft, the Special Committee reiterates its firm support for the mission of good offices of the Secretary-General in order to assist the parties in complying with the request made by the General Assembly in its resolutions on the question of the Falkland Islands.


Also before the Committee is a working paper on the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) prepared by the Secretariat in April 2004 (A/AC.109/2004/12).  As noted in the report, the Government of Argentina continues to claim sovereignty over the MalvinasIslands.  According to the Government of Argentina, its exercise of sovereignty over the islands was interrupted in 1833, when British forces occupied the Malvinas Islands, expelling the Argentine population and authorities settled there and replacing them with others of British origin, an act to which the people and Government of Argentina never consented.


In a statement on 22 September 2003, during the general debate of the fifty-eighth session of the General Assembly, the President of Argentina said his Government had advocated a peaceful settlement of the sovereignty dispute and expressed its willingness to negotiate in order to conclusively settle the dispute.  It urged the United Kingdom to agree to resume bilateral negotiations to resolve the issue.


A representative of the United Kingdom, in a statement on 6 October 2003 during the second meeting of the Fourth Committee of the General Assembly, said a number of significant developments had taken place during the year.  In accordance with the British Overseas Territories Act adopted in 2002, which granted all citizens of those Territories full British citizenship, more than 14,000 passports had been issued by August 2003.  The representative added that the United Kingdom had the impression that there was no strong desire in its Territories to choose the path of independence, even though his Government had made it clear that it would give encouragement where independence was an option.  The key, therefore, was to try to reconcile the desire in the Territories for greater autonomy and self-government with the United Kingdom’s responsibility to ensure good governance.


The working paper further notes that at its 56th plenary meeting, on 5 November 2003, the General Assembly decided to defer consideration of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) and to include it in the provisional agenda of its fifty-ninth session.


Statements


ROGER EDWARDS, Legislative Councillor of the Falkland Islands Government said the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) enjoyed a level of independence that many nations would be proud of and that it managed a robust economy with a high standard of living, a good educational system and excellent health services.  The only two areas it did not control were foreign policy and defence, which were both provided by the British Government.  A strong defence, he added, was important as they lived close to a neighbour whose aggressive stance against the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) had been demonstrated over many years.


Noting the positive economic and commercial developments in the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), he said revenue had been raised by licensing foreign fishing vessels and charging fees for trans-shipment of cargoes.  Tourism had increased, bringing in additional income.  New schools had been built, there was an international airport, and roads had spread across the islands, opening up new opportunities in trade and commerce.


He said the relationship with Argentina had become much more strained following the last change of government in that country.  Argentina had attempted to interrupt and interfere in almost every aspect of development in the islands.  It had attempted to disrupt the fishing business and had prevented charter flights through its airspace.  Nevertheless, the islands’ economy had been assisted by a reconstruction fund and by development assistance, and since 1990 had been economically self-sufficient in all areas other than defence.


He called on the Committee to grant the people of the Falkland Islands the basic right to self-determination -- the right to pursue its own political ambitions and choice of sovereign status -- a right that had been recognized by the United Nations in every resolution of Non-Self-Governing Territories other than the Falkland Islands (Malvinas).  He said the draft resolution before the Committee was asking the Committee to support a change of sovereignty.  Falklands islanders, he said, did not wish to see a change from British sovereign status.  He therefore urged all delegates not to adopt the resolution as it did not take into account the wishes and ambitions of Falklands islanders and did not respect their right to determine their own future.


MIKE SUMMERS, Legislative Councillor of the Falkland Islands Government, said his country was not a colony:  the people neither felt they lived in a colony, nor did the Government of the United Kingdom treat the Falklands as a colony.  The world, led by the United Nations, must not tolerate those who pursued territorial disputes while manifestly ignoring the wishes of the people of those territories.  The people of the Falkland Islands had been devising and implementing strategies for the political, economic and social development, and strengthening the internal self-government, of their country for many years.


Since the 1982 Falklands war, he said, the Islands had seen reinvestment in infrastructure and the advent of new economic opportunities in deep sea fishing, while tourism had brought a new reserve of self-belief and entrepreneurial spirit to the people.  The community was peaceful and well regulated, free of corruption and prejudice, and benefited from an equal distribution of wealth among the population.  There was no poverty, deprivation or exploitation; migrant workers enjoyed economic opportunity and benefits equal to the permanent community.  There was no movement for independence, or for a change in political allegiance, among the people of the Falkland Islands.  Every member of the Legislative Council had been elected on a mandate of continued allegiance to and close cooperation with the United Kingdom, with no concessions to Argentina on sovereignty.


In contrast, the Government of Argentina had declared that any solution to the Falklands dispute would respect the “interests” -- not the wishes -- of the Islands’ people, he stressed.  The Argentine Foreign Minister had publicly stated that the views of the Islands’ people were “irrelevant”.  It had been claimed that the principle of self-determination did not apply to the Falkland Islands, but should be overridden by that of territorial integrity.  Yet, the concept of decolonization through the application of the principle of territorial integrity had no place in United Nations doctrine.


The Falkland Islands were geographically, geologically, culturally, linguistically and historically different from Argentina, he concluded, and self-determination for the people of the Falkland Islands must be the guiding principle for the United Kingdom and Argentina, as well as for this Committee.  There could be no negotiation on sovereignty, as such would imply a willingness to change or concede which did not exist.  Thus, the resolution, which called for a negotiated solution to the Falklands/Malvinas question, had no place before the Committee.


The representative of Cuba said the statement by the representative of the Falkland Islands Government (Malvinas) reflected a lack of knowledge of the Committee’s work and he regretted the shortage of adequate information.  He said the comments could contribute little to the Committee‘s discussions as they lacked a knowledge of the resolutions adopted year after year by the Committee.


ALEJANDRO BETTS, a former resident of the Falkland (Malvinas) Islands, said the present discussion had a colonial origin that resulted from the invasion of the Argentine territory by the United Kingdom in the nineteenth century.  Although the United Kingdom had been in possession of the Falklands (Malvinas) since the invasion, it was a legal fact that possession did not alone give legitimacy.  Bearing in mind that in 1883 the Falklands (Malvinas) had been in the possession of Argentina, they had not constituted a vacant land open to occupation.  The principle of self-determination could not therefore legitimately be applied, as the community implanted by United Kingdom since the illegal ousting of Argentina had benefited from the use of resources in a manner not approved by international law.


Moreover, he said, due to the excessively severe migration policy, which had been in place since 1983, Argentine citizens had been unable to move to the Islands or to own land there.  There had also been a refusal to re-establish contact or to resolve issues related to aviation and fishing with the Government of Argentina, or with other territories such as Patagonia.  That refusal was intimately related to the above-noted illegal foreign exploitation of resources, facilitated by the illegal distribution of fishing licenses.


In conclusion, he noted that the United Kingdom continued to assert that the status of the Falklands (Malvinas) was not open for negotiation.  The Committee must work to help the United Kingdom to put aside its opposition to negotiation on the Islands’ status.  Argentina’s claim to have her legitimate sovereign rights recognized fell perfectly within international law.


MARIA ANGELICA VERNET, Director of the NationalHistoricalMuseum of the Buenos AiresOldTown Hall and May Revolution, said her great-great-grandfather Luis Vernet, the appointed Political and Military Governor of the MalvinasIslands (Falkland Islands) from 1829 to 1832, had legitimized Argentine sovereignty over the territories within its jurisdiction.  He had applied the rules of the Act on Regulation of Fisheries and Hunting of Amphibians along the PatagonianCoasts and AdjacentIslands, passed by the Government of Buenos Aires in 1821, to prevent the predatory action produced by British and North American ships.  He had firmly asserted the Argentine Government’s control of the archipelago.


She said that as a descendant of Vernet she was convinced that, like other settlers, Vernet had legitimately settled in the MalvinasIslands (Falkland Islands) and contributed to their prosperity.  The Argentines who arrived on the islands to work for their progress obtained concession of their lands legitimately from the Government of Buenos Aires, which had jurisdiction over the territory.  Vernet, along with fellow inhabitants of the Malvinas (Falkland Islands), were ousted from the territory and stripped of their possessions by the British act of force of 3 January 1833.  She asked the Committee to urge and promote a constructive dialogue between the ArgentineRepublic and the United Kingdom to solve the ensuing sovereignty dispute between them, in accordance with United Nations decisions.


RAFAEL BIELSA, Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Trade and Culture of Argentina, recalled that British forces had expelled the Argentine inhabitants and authorities of the MalvinasIslands on January 3, 1883, establishing their illegal occupation of the Islands, as well as a colonial situation unlike any other.  The General Assembly, and the present Committee, had recognized in numerous resolutions the special nature of this situation, determining that the “Malvinas Question” referred to the controversy between Argentina and the United Kingdom regarding sovereignty over the islands, which dispute rested exclusively between those two parties and whose solution must be negotiated, taking into account the interests of the islands’ inhabitants.


Recalling that resolution 1514 (XV) affirmed that “any attempt aimed at the partial or total disruption of the national unity and the territorial integrity of any country is incompatible with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations”, he stressed that the United Kingdom’s nineteenth-century violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the independent republic of Argentina meant that the principle of territorial integrity must prevail over that of self-determination.


Furthermore, as continental Argentines had been prevented from settling on the islands since the 1883 expulsion, which situation had facilitated the establishment of a population of British origin, giving the islanders the right to self-determination would allow the colonial power to justify its own usurpation of territory.  Such was undoubtedly not the United Nations’ interpretation of the right to self-determination, which properly applied to people different from those of the colonial powers and who were subject to foreign domination.


The occupation of the Malvinas had been immediately protested, he added, and had never been accepted by Argentina, which had consistently called for recovery of the islands.  The long British occupation had not impaired Argentina’s rights.  The claim to sovereignty of the islands was felt deeply by the nation, and had been enshrined in the 1994 Constitution.  However, all Argentines remained fully committed to the peaceful settlement of the dispute.  Aware of Argentina’s willingness to negotiate the islands’ status, and the United Kingdom’s obstinacy in delaying negotiations, the Committee must continue to support resumption of negotiations on sovereignty, as soon as possible.  Since 1989, provisional understandings on issues related to the South Atlantic had been concluded under the sovereignty formula.  However, those understandings must not be interpreted as acceptance of the pretended status quo in the region, nor as a definitive solution to the dispute.


HENRIQUE R. VALLE (Brazil), speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, said the Group wished to reiterate its support for the work of the Committee to put an end to colonialism, based on Resolution 1514.  While progress had been considerable since the Committee began its work in the 1960s, its goal had not yet been achieved.  The spirit of reconciliation regarding the question of Malvinas and the solution of the sovereignty dispute was outlined in resolution 2065 and other resolutions of the General Assembly.  It was essential for the two parties to resume negotiations so they could find a peaceful, just and lasting solution to the sovereignty dispute in accordance with resolutions of the General Assembly and of this Committee.  He added that Brazil wished to reiterate its support for the rights of Argentina in the sovereignty dispute over the question of the Malvinas (Falkland Islands) and hoped the climate of cooperation between the two parties would lead to a peaceful resolution to this long-standing controversy.  The Rio Group supported the draft resolution and hoped that the resolution would be adopted without a vote.


TERUMI MATSUO DE CLAVEROL (Paraguay), speaking on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), as well as Bolivia and Chile, noted that Argentina had reiterated its willingness to undertake the negotiations requested by the Committee year after year.  She also reiterated the ongoing commitment of the MERCOSUR members to support for Argentina’s sovereign rights over the Malvinas, and stressed that the question of the Malvinas constituted an ongoing hemispheric interest.  Every member of MERCOSUR was represented at the present session and stood in solidarity with Argentina and reiterated its support for the present draft resolution.  It was to be regretted that the issue remained unresolved despite numerous appeals from the international community.  The international community should renew its appeal for the resolution of this pending, South Atlantic issue.


FELIPE PAOLILLO (Uruguay) said his delegation was of the view that patience played an essential role in achieving a fair solution to the conflict of the MalvinasIslands (Falkland Islands).  The patience put to the test on this occasion was not only that of the Argentinian people; the people and Governments of the entire continent continued to watch the United Kingdom exercise a de facto sovereignty over the Malvinas Islands (Falkland Islands) as an anomaly which must end.  It was an anomaly born from the violation of the territorial integrity of Argentina and justified subsequently by wrongly invoking the principle of self-determination.  This principle had been erroneously interpreted to assign to the inhabitants of the MalvinasIslands (Falkland Islands) the curious right, with no precedent in history, to live under the sovereignty of a state in the territory of another state.


He said it was the exercise of patience that brought his delegation to attend the Committee meetings year after year.  It did so with the conviction and expectation that negotiations between the two parties would resume.  The absence of negotiations could be interpreted as a consolidation of the status quo or as proof that the conflict did not exist any more.  The conflict was alive and Uruguay would continue to call for its settlement until the MalvinasIslands were returned to its legitimate sovereignty.


OSWALDO DE RIVERO (Peru) endorsed the statements of Brazil, on behalf of the Rio Group, and of Paraguay, on behalf of MERCOSUR and related States, and recalled that his country had always supported United Nations efforts to eliminate colonialism and to recognize the inalienable rights of people to determine their own future in accordance with the provisions of the Organization’s Charter and relevant General Assembly resolutions.  The right to self-determination had always been defended by Peru as a basic principle of international law and of the Organization.


Nevertheless, he continued, Peru held that the present issue must be resolved as provided for by General Assembly resolutions 2065 (XX) and 3160 (XXVIII), and must include recognition of Argentina’s legitimate right to sovereignty over the Malvinas Islands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, as well as the surrounding maritime areas.  This position was based upon historic, geographical and legal criteria, inferred from the right of property of the MalvinasIslands as part of Argentina, inherited upon independence.  The parties must resume negotiations aimed at finding a peaceful and lasting solution to the controversy, as soon as possible, he concluded.


XIE YUNLIANG (China) said it was the consistent position of China that territorial disputes between countries should be resolved through peaceful means.  It was China’s hope that the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom would continue their constructive dialogue and work towards a prompt, peaceful and just solution to this dispute.  It was in this spirit that his delegation supported the draft resolution.


FAYSSAL MEKDAD (Syria) said he supported the present draft resolution and held that its adoption by consensus would reaffirm the role to be played by the international community in the dispute’s resolution.  The resumption of dialogue and meetings between Argentina and the United Kingdom would lead to a proper and mutually acceptable solution to the issue of sovereignty over the islands.


REZLAN ISHAR JENIE (Indonesia) said his delegation was deeply concerned that the question of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) remained unresolved despite efforts by the international community to assist the parties in seeking a solution to the dispute.  It was essential that the status of this Non-Self-Governing Territory be resolved expeditiously.


Indonesia remained hopeful that negotiations would resume as provided by the relevant General Assembly resolutions in order to bring a just, peaceful, and definitive solution to the problem.  In this spirit, his delegation hoped it would be possible for the Committee to adopt the draft resolution by consensus.


ADRIANA P. PULIDO SANTANA (Venezuela) said she subscribed to the statement of Brazil on behalf of the Rio Group.  However, as a co-sponsor of the present draft resolution, she also wished to note her country’s unequivocal support of Argentina’s right to exercise sovereignty over the MalvinasIslands, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands, as well as the surrounding maritime areas.  Negotiation remained the best means of resolving the dispute, within the context of bilateral dialogue between Argentina and the United Kingdom.  All efforts must aim to overcome the obstacles that had in the past prevented both parties from resolving their conflict.


ARANIBAR QUIROGA (Bolivia) said his delegation supported the draft resolution and endorsed the comments made by the representative of Brazil on behalf of the Rio Group and the representative of Paraguay on behalf of MERCOSUR.  It was relevant to state that the special declaration on the Malvinas Islands (Falkland Islands) adopted at the 10th summit held in Santa Cruz in his country had reaffirmed the need for the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom to resume as soon as possible negotiations aimed at finding a prompt resolution to the question of the Malvinas Islands (Falkland Islands).  In this regard, Bolivia was convinced of the need for the two parties to resume negotiations in order to find a peaceful, just and lasting solution to the dispute.


LAMUEL STANISLAUS (Grenada) asked when the two disputants would create an environment conducive to allowing the people of the Falklands (Malvinas) to decide their own destiny and answered that it would likely be when the two parties sat down to negotiate.  Could the international community not ensure that the Islands’ people had the best opportunity to decide their own future and avoid leaving them to dry up like a raisin in the sun?  For the moment, negotiations between the parties should concentrate upon the issues uniting the parties.


ORLANDO REQUEIJO GUAL (Cuba) said his country held that serious negotiations allowing for the definitive, peaceful and satisfactory solution of the question of the Falklands/Malvinas should be undertaken as soon as possible and that any situation in which tensions could rise in the South Atlantic should be avoided.


The representative of the Congo urged both Argentina and the United Kingdom to resume negotiations for a lasting resolution to the conflict, as there were no real obstacles preventing such a resolution.


The representative of Tunisia said his country also supported the resumption of negotiations for a peaceful, just and lasting solution to the question of the Falklands (Malvinas).


RUPERT DAVIES (Sierra Leone) said his country had consistently maintained that the present question should be resolved through peaceful means and, therefore, called upon parties to engage in dialogue aimed at achieving a final and just solution.  During that dialogue, the interests of the islanders must be taken into account, as any solution that failed to do so would not be lasting.  The islanders right to self-determination must be respected.


FILIMONE KAU (Fiji) said he supported self-determination as the first principle of decolonization.  Noting that the recent past had seen the cooperative relationship between Argentina and the United Kingdom interrupted, and it had taken several years to normalize relations under the sovereignty umbrella arrangement, he nevertheless cautioned that the Committee would at some point have to respect the islanders’ right to self-determination.


YURI RUDAKOV (Russian Federation) said he was convinced the Committee would show it wisdom by adopting the present draft resolution on the basis of unanimity, as in previous years.  It was essential that the solution to this question be founded upon the basis of negotiations.


TERUNEH ZENNA (Ethiopia) said the question of the Falklands (Malvinas) should be resolved through negotiations, which was the long-held position of his Government.


Action on Draft


Draft resolution A/AC.109/2004/L.8 was adopted without a vote.


Speaking after the adoption of the draft, Mr. BIELSA, Argentina’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, said the attitude of the countries of the region ratified the fact of the strategic position of integration and demonstrated that the brotherhood among nations was not just rhetorical.


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