|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-eighth General Assembly
8th Meeting (AM)
Fourth Committee Concludes Annual Consideration of Decolonization, Forwarding
Package of 11 Draft Resolutions to General Assembly for Adoption
Reiterating its conviction of the need for the eradication of colonialism, the Fourth Committee today concluded its annual consideration of the question of decolonization, and forwarded 11 draft resolutions to the General Assembly, six of them approved without a vote.
Continuing its tradition, the Committee approved by consensus its omnibus draft resolution on Questions of American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Guam, Montserrat, Pitcairn, Saint Helena, Turks and Caicos Islands and the United States Virgin Islands.
That text would have the General Assembly reaffirm that, in the process of decolonization, there was no alternative to the principle of self-determination, which was also a fundamental human right, as recognized under the relevant human rights conventions.
In a series of provisions concerning the administering Powers of the 17 Non-Self-Governing Territories on the United Nations list, the Assembly would reaffirm those Governments’ responsibility to promote the Territories’ economic and social development and take all measures necessary to protect their environments. The Assembly would call on the administering Powers to participate in and cooperate fully with the United Nations Special Committee on Decolonization.
Speaking in explanation of position after the text’s approval, the question was raised about the application of principles other than that of self-determination to the Territories. The representative of Spain said that although the delegation had joined the consensus on the draft because it supported the right to free self-determination, the principle of territorial integrity should also be applied in some cases, such as in that of Gibraltar.
Also speaking on that draft was Argentina’s representative, who expressed support for the right of self-determination in the Territories as outlined in the omnibus draft resolution, but, drawing attention to General Assembly resolution 1514 (1960), said that the principle of self-determination was only one of two guiding tenets applicable to Non-Self-Governing Territories. The question of the Malvinas* was a “special and particular” case, whereby the territorial integrity principle, as established by numerous General Assembly resolutions, was also to be considered.
Also speaking in explanation after passage of the draft was the representative of the United Kingdom, called the approach of the Decolonization Committee “outdated” because it failed to take into account how the relationship between the United Kingdom and its Overseas Territories had modernized. Also, he added, the United Kingdom did not accept the assertion that the people of Gibraltar did not have the right to self-determination.
The Committee also approved without a vote a draft resolution on French Polynesia — reinstated just this year on the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories. By its terms, the General Assembly would reaffirm the inalienable right of the people of French Polynesia to self-determination and also recognize the significant health and environmental impacts of nuclear testing conducted by the administering Power in the Territory over a 31-year period.
Other draft resolutions approved without a vote today included three more on specific territories — New Caledonia, Tokelau, and Western Sahara, as well as a fourth draft text on study and training facilities for inhabitants of Non-Self-Governing Territories. A draft decision on Gibraltar would be considered at a later date.
Requiring a recorded vote was a draft resolution on information from Non-Self-Governing Territories, which would stress the importance of timely transmission of adequate information relating to the Territories by the administering Powers. A decision was taken to forward it to the General Assembly, by a vote of 149 in favour to none against, with 4 abstentions (Israel, Rwanda, United Kingdom, United States).
By a recorded vote of 107 in favour to none against, with 51 abstentions, the Committee approved a draft resolution on the implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples by the specialized agencies and the international institutions associated with the United Nations. A text on dissemination of information on decolonization was approved by a recorded vote of 156 in favour to 3 against ( Israel, United Kingdom, United States) with no abstentions.
Also requiring recorded votes were resolutions on economic and other activities affecting the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories — 153 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 2 abstentions (Rwanda, United Kingdom); and on the implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples — 158 in favour to 3 against (Israel, United Kingdom, United States), with no abstentions.
Prior to action, the Committee also heard from several delegates as its general debate on decolonization concluded. Broadly speaking, the representative of Algeria said that the “pretexts and red herrings” used by the occupying Powers must be denied. Concerning Western Sahara, it was pointless to hide the national aspirations of the Saharan people. The United Nations, he added, must engage them in a genuine exercise of self-determination.
The representative of Morocco stated that a tiny minority persisted in seeing the Western Sahara issue through its own fantasies rather than through historic facts. Morocco’s autonomy initiative represented a historic compromise with “a win-win focus” and was still on the negotiating table.
Also participating in the discussion were representatives of South Africa, Viet Nam, and Palau.
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were the representatives of Spain, United Kingdom, Argentina, India, and Pakistan.
The representative of the European Union delivered a general statement ahead of action on the Western Sahara text.
The Fourth Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. Wednesday, 16 October, to begin is consideration of questions relating to information.
The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this morning to conclude its consideration of decolonization issues and take action on related draft resolutions.
The Committee had before it a report of the Special Committee on the Situation with Regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples for 2013 (document A/68/23), which contains draft resolution I on Information from Non-Self-Governing Territories; II on Economic and other activities affecting the peoples of Non-Self-Governing Territories; III on Implementation of the Decolonization Declaration by the specialized agencies of the United Nations; IV on the Question of New Caledonia; V on the Question of French Polynesia; VI Tokelau; VII on American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Guam, Montserrat, Pitcairn Islands, Saint Helena, Turks and Caicos Islands, and United States Virgin Islands; and VIII on Dissemination of information on decolonization.
Also before the Committee were draft resolutions on Offers by Member States for training for inhabitants of Non-Self-Governing Territories (document A/C.4/68/L.4); and Question of Western Sahara (document A/C.4/68/L.5)
MOURAD BENMEHIDI ( Algeria) stated that the number of Non-Self-Governing Territories was constant, stagnant or increasing, and the right to self-determination, which was enshrined in the United Nations Charter, was still being denied. As an impartial guarantor for the rights of the people of Non-Self-Governing Territories, the United Nations was responsible for enabling those rights and must not distort the success it had achieved in the issue by allowing the remaining such Territories to remain on the list. The pretexts and red herrings used by the occupying Powers must be denied.
He said that Algeria was an essential actor in the movement for freedom because of its own struggle and commitment to work together with Member States to eradicate colonialism. The Territory of Western Sahara was waiting for the United Nations to fulfil its mission. It was pointless to hide the national aspirations of that people, and Algeria reaffirmed that it was the responsibility of the United Nations to settle the issue of Western Sahara. The settlement must engage the people of the Western Sahara in a genuine exercise of self-determination. The African Union and the United Nations must work together and consistently for the restoration of the full rights of the Saharans. During the African Union summit in January, the African Union Commission had been mandated to take all necessary measures to organize a referendum on that issue in Western Sahara.
Algeria also noted the “responsibilities of the authorities of the Polisario, faced with instability in the region”, he said. As the Secretary-General had stated in his 8 April report, the positive authority offered by the military authorities of the Polisario Front had enabled the Territory of Western Sahara and its immediate surrounding areas to remain largely outside the turbulence that affected the Sahel. It was undeniable that the Sahara and the West African region had benefited. Algeria remained ready to assist the two parties — Morocco and the Polisario — to further the negotiations needed to find a just, lasting political solution. Algeria would continue to support the Secretary-General and his envoy.
KINGSLEY MAMABOLO ( South Africa), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said his country was concerned that there was still one remaining colony in Africa. The liberation of the Saharan people remained a priority for Africa, and the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic was no different from other African States. Its people should enjoy universal suffrage and exercise their right to self-determination, which was guaranteed by the United Nations Charter. Their struggle was based on the principles of decolonization, promotion of human rights, international legality and the stability of the African continent. He called on the United Nations and the international community to play their respective roles in providing the means for the Saharan people to choose their political destiny through a referendum. He also called on the Security Council to redress its inconsistent approach in excluding human rights monitoring mechanisms in the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), and urged it to address the allegations of human rights violations in Western Sahara and illegal exploitation of the natural resources there.
DO VAN MINH (Viet Nam), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, called on Non-Self-Governing Territories and the administering Powers to continue to engage in constructive dialogue to reach an agreement on the fundamental interest of the people, as well as resolve issues through peace, and in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Charter and relevant resolutions. He urged the administering Powers to adopt the necessary measures to facilitate the rapid decolonization of Territories under their control, and to offer assistance to their peoples, as part of their obligations.
CALEB OTTO ( Palau) said the road to self-determination had not always been smooth, and a free, fair and credible election was the most important tool in the democratic process of self-determination. Palau supported the desire and aspirations of the people of New Caledonia for self-determination, through a process that was free, transparent and credible in each and every step, from voter registration to election results verification. On Tokelau, he said that the approach taken by New Zealand in helping the people of Tokelau towards self-determination was a good approach and should be emulated by all administering Powers.
MOHAMMED LOULICHKI ( Morocco) said sight should not be lost of the fundamental issues regarding Western Sahara. Fallacious assertions had been made by a tiny minority that persisted in seeing the issue through its own fantasies rather than through historic facts. Across Africa, borders were drawn by the whims of the major Powers. The colonial arbitrariness favoured some parties and excluded others. It was foreseeable that Morocco, because of its resistance to colonialism, would have parts of its territory “amputated” and broken up, without precedent in Africa. In order to recover those territories, Morocco had followed the path of negotiation. The case of the Sahara, occupied until 1975 by Spain, was such an example. Unfortunately for the region, cold war legacies had transformed the decolonization process into a regional dispute, preventing the region of Maghreb from emerging as a strong and stable one. However, Morocco had constantly held out its hand to promote better relations with its neighbours, Algeria and Mauritania.
The autonomy initiative presented by Morocco in 2007, he added, had been recognized by the Security Council for its credibility. It represented a historic compromise and made it possible for the population of the region to exercise their right to express their will through democratically elected bodies while respecting the territorial integrity of Morocco. It was thus halfway between complete integration and independence. The proposed autonomy had a win-win focus and was still on the negotiating table. It was up to the other two parties to demonstrate corresponding realism and political will. Neighbourliness had its own ethics. “You cannot create disputes and then wash your hands of the responsibility to find a solution.” Only the United Nations should be overseeing the dispute, as any other organization could become “an uninvited guest” in the quest for a political solution. Morocco would continue to trust the United Nations in its search for that solution, which the inhabitants of Tindouf were impatiently awaiting.
Right of Reply
The representative of the United Kingdom, speaking in exercise of the right of reply in response to the statements made by Nicaragua, Honduras, Venezuela and other delegations, stated that his country’s position on the Falkland Islands was well known. With regard to nuclear weapons, the United Kingdom had ratified the protocols for a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Latin American region and fully respected those obligations.
Also speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Spain, responding to statements made by the United Kingdom on 11 October, stated that increased tensions in Gibraltar were due to the actions of the authorities, such as the launching of concrete blocks with long sharp spikes to impede the movement of Spanish fishing boats. The failure of local Gibraltarian authorities to fight contraband had made it imperative for Spanish authorities to increase controls in the Spain-Gibraltar border. Regarding the sovereignty dispute over that Territory, the United Nations had made it clear that negotiations between the United Kingdom and Spain were necessary to resolve that situation.
Also speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Argentina, responding to the statements made by the United Kingdom today and on 11 October, reiterated the views expressed by the Argentine President in the General Assembly. The Malvinas, South Georgias, South Sandwich, and surrounding maritime areas were an integral part of the Argentine national territory illegitimately occupied by the United Kingdom and subjected to a sovereignty dispute recognized by several international organizations. The illegal occupation by the United Kingdom had led the United Nations to adopt several resolutions, including resolution 2065 (1965), and to call upon both parties to resume negotiations towards a peaceful and lasting solution. Argentina rejected the so-called “white paper” in its references to the Malvinas, South Georgias, South Sandwich, and surrounding maritime areas. Argentina also rejected the United Kingdom pretensions in referring to those Argentine Territories as if they were British Overseas Territories.
He reiterated Argentina’s position that the principle of self-determination was totally and manifestly inappropriate and inapplicable to the sovereignty dispute between his country and the United Kingdom. The illegitimate vote held in the Malvinas Islands was another unilateral act, which did not affect the rights of Argentina. The solution to the dispute did not depend on the results of an alleged referendum in which the subjects of the British Crown were asked if they wished to remain British. In the question of the Malvinas Islands, there were no people subject to the subjugation of a colonial Power. Likewise, Argentina rejected the United Kingdom’s growing militarization of the south Atlantic.
The representative of India, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said Pakistan’s statement on Jammu and Kashmir was “irrelevant” to the Committee, as that issue was not listed as part of its work. The people of Jammu and Kashmir had chosen their destiny and they were part of India, which rejected Pakistan’s position in its entirety.
The representative of Pakistan said the question of self-determination for Jammu and Kashmir had lingered for 65 years and was therefore relevant to the Committee’s discussions. Jammu and Kashmir was not part of India, he emphasized, adding that many United Nations resolutions recognized Kashmir as a non-autonomous Territory. The relevant resolutions stated that the issue should be decided through a plebiscite, in accordance with the people’s desires and aspirations. The people of Jammu and Kashmir had a right to self-determination, in accordance with the relevant United Nations resolutions, he stressed.
Action on Texts
The Committee turned first to agenda item 56 and draft resolution I, on information from Non-Self-Governing Territories transmitted under Article 73 e of the United Nations Charter, approving it by a recorded vote of 149 in favour to none against, with 4 abstentions ( Israel, Rwanda, United Kingdom, United States).
Among the terms of that draft, the General Assembly would request the administering Powers concerned to transmit regularly to the Secretary-General for information purposes, statistical and other information of a technical nature relating to economic, social and educational conditions in the Territories for which they are respectively responsible, as well as the fullest possible information on political and constitutional developments in the Territories.
Speaking in explanation of vote after the vote, the representative of the United Kingdom said that his delegation did not take issue with the main objective of the resolution. The United Kingdom continued to meet its obligations in that regard with its Overseas Territories. However, it believed that the decision as to whether a Non-Self-Governing Territory had reached the level of self-government was ultimately for the Government of the Territory and the administering Power to decide and not for the General Assembly.
Next, the Committee approved draft resolution II, on economic and other activities which affect the interests of the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories, by a recorded vote of 153 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 2 abstentions (Rwanda, United Kingdom).
That text would have the General Assembly urge the administering Powers concerned to take effective measures to safeguard and guarantee the inalienable right of the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories to their natural resources and to establish and maintain control over the future development of those resources, and requests the administering Powers to take all steps necessary to protect the property rights of the peoples of those Territories.
Speaking in explanation of vote after the vote, the representative of Argentina stated that self-determination required an active subject in order to be exercised, namely, a people subjected to alien subjugation. Without that, there was no right to self-determination. The Malvinas, South Georgias and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas had been illegally occupied by the United Kingdom, which had expelled the population by force and replaced it with British nationals. That meant that the issue of self-determination was inapplicable to the Malvinas Islands.
The draft resolution just approved, said the speaker, was therefore in no way applicable to the question of the Malvinas, South Georgias and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas. General Assembly resolutions on the Malvinas, as well as those approved today, had expressly established that, because there was a sovereignty dispute on Malvinas, South Georgias and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas; the way to put an end to that colonial situation was not through self-determination, but a negotiated solution to the sovereignty dispute between the parties, the United Kingdom and Argentina.
The General Assembly, continued the speaker, had discarded the applicability of the self-determination principle to the Malvinas, South Georgias and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas. Further, in resolution 31/49, the General Assembly asked Argentina and the United Kingdom to refrain from adopting decisions that involved the introduction of unilateral measures while the Islands were in the negotiation process recommended by the Assembly. Therefore, said the delegate, the unilateral exploitation of renewable and non-renewable natural energy sources by the United Kingdom openly contradicted the United Nations resolutions.
The Committee then approved draft resolution III on implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples by the specialized agencies and the international institutions associated with the United Nations, by which the General Assembly would urge those and other organizations of the United Nations system that have not yet provided assistance to Non-Self-Governing Territories to do so as soon as possible. It would ask the United Nations system and regional organizations to strengthen existing measures of support and formulate appropriate programmes of assistance to the remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories, in order to accelerate progress in the Territories’ economic and social sectors.
That text was approved by a recorded vote of 107 in favour to none against, with 51 abstentions.
Speaking in explanation of position after the vote, the representative of United Kingdom stated that his country reaffirmed its support for the specialized agencies, but said that the statutes of those agencies must be respected. The delegation, therefore, had abstained.
Also speaking in explanation of vote after the vote, the representative of Argentina said that the draft resolution should be applied in conformity with relevant United Nations decisions and resolutions, including of the General Assembly and the Special Committee on Decolonization, on the specific Territories.
The Committee then turned to draft resolution on offers by Member States of study and training facilities for inhabitants of Non-Self-Governing Territories (document A/C.4/68/L.4), approving it without a vote.
By its terms, the General Assembly would urge the administering Powers to take effective measures to ensure widespread and continuous dissemination in the Territories of information relating to offers of study and training facilities made by States, and to provide all the necessary facilities to enable students to avail themselves of such offers.
The Chair then announced that the draft resolution on the Question of Western Sahara (document A/C.4/68/L.5) would be delayed pending circulation of a revised text.
Making a general statement on that text, FILIP VANDENBULCKE, European Union delegation, welcomed the commitment of the parties to continue showing the political will needed to work in an atmosphere propitious for dialogue. It encouraged the parties to collaborate with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in implementing confidence-building measures. It supported the Security Council’s request that UNHCR maintain its consideration of a refugee registration facility in the Tindouf camps. Progress made on confidence-building measures could improve the atmosphere for the political process. The Union remained concerned about the implications of the Western Sahara conflict for security and cooperation in the region.
Also acting without a vote, the Committee approved draft resolutions IV through VII.
According to draft resolution IV on the Question of New Caledonia, the General Assembly would urge all the parties involved, in the interest of all the people of New Caledonia, to maintain within the framework of the Noumea Accord their dialogue in the spirit of harmony.
By the terms of draft resolution V on the Question of French Polynesia, the General Assembly would call upon the Government of France to intensify its dialogue with that Territory in order to facilitate rapid progress towards a fair and effective self-determination process, under which the terms and timelines for an act of self-determination would be agreed.
The Assembly would request the Secretary-General, in cooperation with relevant specialized agencies of the United Nations, to compile a report on the environmental, ecological, health and other impacts as a consequence of the 30-year period of nuclear testing in the Territory.
According to draft resolution VI, on the Question of Tokelau, the Assembly would welcome the commitment of both Tokelau and New Zealand to work together in the interests of Tokelau and its people and call on the administering Power and United Nations agencies to provide assistance to Tokelau as it further develops.
The terms of draft resolution VII, on Questions of American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Guam, Montserrat, Pitcairn, Saint Helena, the Turks and Caicos Islands and the United States Virgin Islands, would have the General Assembly reaffirm that it was ultimately for the peoples of the Territories themselves to determine freely their future political status. It would also have the Assembly urge Member States to contribute to the efforts of the United Nations to usher in a world free of colonialism.
Speaking in explanation of position after the vote, the representative of Spainstated that his country had joined the consensus on draft resolution VII because it supported the right to free self-determination. But that was not the only principle to be considered for Non-Self-Governing Territories; territorial integrity should also be applied in some cases, such as in the case of Gibraltar. Regarding its decolonization, Spain was prepared to move forthwith to a permanent solution resulting from direct negotiations with the United Kingdom, in which the wishes and aspirations of the people of Gibraltar were heard.
Also speaking in explanation of vote after the vote, the representative of the United Kingdom stated that his country regretted that the Special Committee on Decolonization continued its outdated approach and failed to take into account how the relationship between his country and its Overseas Territories had modernized. Some of the language in that resolution, therefore, was unacceptable to the United Kingdom. Nor did his country accept the assertion that the people of Gibraltar did not have the right to self-determination.
Also speaking in explanation of position, Argentina’s representative expressed support for the right of self-determination in the Territories covered by the draft resolution. The exercise of that right should be in accordance with the freely expressed wishes of the people of the Territories concerned. In that connection, Argentina reiterated its long-standing call to the administering Powers to work in cooperation with the United Nations system to develop education programmes, which fostered an awareness of the right to self-determination. At the same time, in accordance with resolution 1514, the principle of self-determination was only one of two guiding tenets that applied to Non-Self-Governing Territories. The question of the Malvinas was to be considered a “special and particular case” where the principle of territorial integrity, as established by numerous General Assembly resolutions, was also to be considered. He reiterated his country’s “permanent willingness” to renew negotiations with the United Kingdom.
The Committee next approved draft resolution VIII on dissemination of information on decolonization by a recorded vote of 156 in favour to 3 against (Israel, United Kingdom, United States) with no abstentions.
By the terms of that text, the Assembly would consider it important to expand its efforts to ensure the widest possible dissemination of information on decolonization, with particular emphasis on the options for self-determination available for the peoples of Non-Self-Governing Territories, and, to that end, request the Department of Public Information, through the United Nations Information Centres, to actively seek new and innovative ways to disseminate material to the Territories.
Speaking in explanation of vote after the vote, the representative of the United Kingdom said his delegation had opposed the text, as the obligations on the Secretariat placed an unwarranted drain on its scarce resources, which was unacceptable.
Also speaking in explanation of vote after the vote, the representative of Argentina expressed firm support for self-determination of peoples that remained under colonial occupation. However, the approved text should be interpreted in accordance with the relevant resolutions of the General Assembly and the Fourth Committee. All of their pronouncements on the Malvinas had characterized it as a special colonial situation and acknowledged that it involved a sovereignty dispute over the Malvinas, South Georgias and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas, between Argentina and the United Kingdom as the only two parties. The resolutions also had established that the only way to solve that dispute was by reconvening bilateral relations leading to a fair, peaceful and permanent solution as soon as possible, which took into account the interests of the people of the Territories.
Next, the Committee approved draft resolution IX on the implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, by whose terms the Assembly would affirm its support for the aspirations of the peoples under colonial rule to exercise their right to self-determination, including independence. The Assembly, in this wide-ranging text, would request the Special Committee to, among other things, formulate specific proposals to bring about an end to colonialism and to report thereon to it at its next session.
That text was approved by a recorded vote of 158 in favour to 3 against ( Israel, United Kingdom, United States), with no abstentions.
Speaking in explanation of vote after the vote, the representative of Spain said that it had voted in favour of the resolution because it supported the principle of self-determination. However, that was the not the only relevant principle and, in Gibraltar, the principle of territorial integrity applied. He added that visiting missions should not be sent to Territories where there were sovereignty disputes.
Also speaking in explanation of vote after the vote was the United Kingdom ’s representative, who said his delegation had voted against the resolution, as his country continued to find elements of the text unacceptable. Despite that negative vote, the United Kingdom remained committed to modernizing the relationships with its Overseas Territories, taking into account the views of their people.
Also speaking in explanation of vote after the vote, the representative of Argentina stated that visiting missions should only proceed in those Territories where there was no sovereignty dispute. Furthermore, the General Assembly should approve the sending of any visiting mission.
The Committee then returned to its consideration of draft L.5 on the Question of Western Sahara, approving it without a vote.
By the terms of the revised text, the Assembly would welcome the commitment of the parties to continue to show political will and work in an atmosphere propitious for dialogue, in order to enter into a more intensive phase of negotiations. It would call on all the parties and the States of the region to cooperate fully with the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy and with each other.
The Committee will consider a draft decision on the Question of Gibraltar at a later date.
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* A dispute exists between the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland concerning sovereignty over the Falkland Islands (Malvinas).For information media • not an official record