TRANSFER OF DECOLONIZATION UNIT OUT OF POLITICAL AFFAIRS DEPARTMENT UNDERMINES UN DECOLONIZATION PROGRAMME, FOURTH COMMITTEE TOLD

6 October 1997
GA/SPD/107

TRANSFER OF DECOLONIZATION UNIT OUT OF POLITICAL AFFAIRS DEPARTMENT UNDERMINES UN DECOLONIZATION PROGRAMME, FOURTH COMMITTEE TOLD

6 October 1997

Press ReleaseGA/SPD/107

TRANSFER OF DECOLONIZATION UNIT OUT OF POLITICAL AFFAIRS DEPARTMENT UNDERMINES UN DECOLONIZATION PROGRAMME, FOURTH COMMITTEE TOLD

19971006 Speakers Oppose Unit's Transfer to General Assembly Affairs Department, as Fourth Committee Begins Debate on Decolonization Issues

The transfer of the United Nations decolonization unit from the Department of Political Affairs to the Department for General Assembly Affairs and Conference Services denied the political essence of the Special Committee on decolonization and undermines the Organization's decolonization programme, the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) was told this morning, as it began its general debate on decolonization issues.

The transfer, which was included in the Secretary-General's reform programme, represented an effort to miniaturize and marginalize the work of the Special Committee, the representative of Fiji, told the Committee. Further, he said the issue of decolonization would not be resolved by the year 2000 -- or by the year 3000 -- without the full and active participation of the administering Powers. He urged Powers concerned to formally take their place in the work of the Fourth Committee and to resume their membership in the Special Committee on decolonization.

Speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the representative of Grenada said that his delegation could not understand why the secretariat of the Special Committee had been transferred out of the Department of Political Affairs when, by nature and mission, the Special Committee was a political body.

Utula Utuoc Samana (Papua New Guinea), Chairman of the Special Committee on decolonization, said that body had sponsored a draft resolution which would urge the Secretary-General to maintain the decolonization unit with all its present functions in the Department of Political Affairs, and urged the

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General Assembly to adopt that text. The relevant sections of the Special Committee's report were introduced by its Rapporteur, the representative of Syria.

Also this morning, Committee Chairman Machivenyyika Tobias Mapuranga (Zimbabwe) announced that the representatives of Algeria and Morocco had agreed during consultations on a Committee debate on the question of Western Sahara. However, both had urged the Committee to recognize the recent positive developments on that issue, so as not to jeopardize progress. He asked the two representatives to continue consultations on how the Committee would best recognize such progress, whether through a resolution or a statement by the Chairman. Statements on that matter were also made by representatives of Morocco and Algeria.

In other business, the Fourth Committee this morning elected Riitta Resch (Finland) as its Rapporteur.

The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 8 October, to continue its general debate on decolonization issues.

Committee Work Programme

The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this morning to begin its consideration of decolonization matters.

Among documents before the Committee is the report of the Special Committee on decolonization (document A/52/23, parts II to VII). It reviews the implementation of the 1960 General Assembly Declaration with regard to the Territories of American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Guam, Montserrat, Pitcairn, St. Helena, Tokelau, Turks and Caicos Islands, and the United States Virgin Islands. It also reports on situations in the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), Gibraltar, New Caledonia and Western Sahara.

The report also deals with information from Non-Self-Governing Territories transmitted under Article 73 e of the United Nations Charter; activities of foreign economic and other interests which impede the Declaration's implementation; and implementation of the Declaration by United Nations specialized agencies and related international institutions.

In part II of the report, the Special Committee recommends for adoption by the Assembly a draft resolution on the question of dissemination of information on decolonization.

Under its provisions, the Assembly would ask the Department of Political Affairs and the Department of Public Information (DPI) to continue their efforts to publicize the work of the United Nations in the field of decolonization through all available media, including publications, radio and television, and the Internet.

The two departments would also be requested to maintain a working relationship with appropriate regional and intergovernmental organizations, particularly in the Pacific and Caribbean regions. Involvement of non-governmental organizations would also be encouraged. All States, including the administering Powers, would cooperate in disseminating the information on decolonization.

Also in part II of the report is a draft decision approved by the Special Committee stressing the need to dispatch periodic visiting missions to Non-Self-Governing Territories, so as to facilitate the full, speedy and effective implementation of the Declaration on decolonization with respect to those Territories. The administering Powers were called on to cooperate or to continue cooperating with the United Nations by receiving visiting United Nations missions in the Territories under their administration. They were also called on to consider new approaches in the work of the Special Committee. The Special Committee Chairman was asked to consult with the

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administering Power of Guam to facilitate the dispatch of a United Nations visiting mission to that Territory.

Part III of the report contains a 16 September draft resolution on economic and other activities, which affect the interests of the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories (document A/AC.109/2098). Under its provisions, the Assembly would reaffirm the right of peoples of Non-Self- Governing Territories to self-determination in conformity with the Charter and with Assembly resolution 1514 (XV), which contains the Declaration on decolonization. It would also reaffirm the responsibility of the administering Powers under the Charter to promote the political, economic, social and educational advancement of the Territories, as well as the legitimate rights of their peoples over their natural resources.

Also in part III of the report is a 16 September draft decision on military activities and arrangements by colonial Powers in Territories under their administration (document A/AC.109/2099). By its terms, the Assembly would reaffirm its conviction that military bases and installations in colonial and Non-Self-Governing Territories could constitute an obstacle to rights of self-determination. It would reiterate that existing bases and installations, which were impeding the implementation of the Declaration on decolonization should be withdrawn. It would also reiterate that the Territories and their adjacent areas should not be used for nuclear testing, dumping of nuclear wastes or deployment of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. Also, the continued alienation of land for military installations in the Territories, particularly in the small island Territories of the Pacific and Caribbean regions, would be deplored.

Aware of the presence of military bases and installations in some of the Territories, the Assembly would urge the administering Powers concerned not to involve those Territories in any offensive acts or interference against other States.

Part IV of the report contains a 6 June draft resolution on information from Non-Self-Governing Territories transmitted under Article 73 e of the Charter (document A/AC.109/2092). By its terms, the Assembly would ask the administering Powers concerned to transmit or continue transmitting to the Secretary-General the information prescribed in Article 73 e of the Charter, and the fullest possible information on political and constitutional developments in the Territories concerned. Also by the resolution, the Secretary-General would be requested to continue to ensure that adequate information is drawn from all available published sources in connection with the preparation of the working papers on those Territories.

In addition, the Special Committee, on 16 September, approved a draft decision on implementation of the decolonization Declaration by United Nations specialized agencies and other bodies (report to be issued). By its terms,

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the Assembly would request that the specialized agencies and other organizations of the United Nations system, as well as international and regional organizations, review conditions in the Non-Self-Governing Territories, so as to take measures to accelerate their economic and social progress. The specialized agencies would also be asked to strengthen existing measures of support and assistance to the Territories. Also, administering Powers would be asked to facilitate the participation of representatives of the Territories in meetings and conferences of the United Nations system.

In part V of the report, the Special Committee recommends for adoption by the Assembly a draft resolution on New Caledonia. Under its provisions, the Assembly would urge all the parties involved, in the interest of all the people of New Caledonia and building on the positive outcome of the mid-term review of the Matignon Accords, to maintain their dialogue in a spirit of harmony.

Also by the draft, the Assembly would invite all the parties involved to continue promoting a framework for the peaceful progress of the Territory towards an act of self-determination in which all options would be open and which would safeguard the rights of all New Caledonians according to the letter and the spirit of the Matignon Accords, which are based on the principle that it is for the populations of New Caledonia to choose how to control their destiny. The Special Committee would be asked to continue its consideration of the matter at its fifty-third session, subject to any directives provided by the Assembly during its current session.

Also in part V of the report, the Special Committee states that, with regard to East Timor and Gibraltar, it decided to continue consideration of matters in those two Territories at its next session, subject to any directives provided by the Assembly during its current session. On the question of Gibraltar, the Special Committee decided also to transmit relevant documentation to the Assembly. With respect to Western Sahara, the Special Committee heard a petitioner and decided to transmit relevant documentation to the Assembly at its current session.

Part VI of the report contains an omnibus draft resolution on the situation of the 12 Non-Self-Governing Territories, as follows: American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Guam, Montserrat, Pitcairn, St. Helena, Tokelau, Turks and Caicos Islands and the United States Virgin Islands.

In the draft's first part, the General Assembly would call on the administering Powers, in cooperation with the territorial governments, to facilitate political education programmes to foster people's awareness of their electoral options. The administering Powers would be asked to keep the Secretary-General informed of the wishes of the people regarding their future political status and invite United Nations visiting missions to monitor the

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Territories. The administering Powers would be asked to protect the Territories against environmental degradation and to counter problems related to drug trafficking, money laundering and other crimes. Priority would be given to strengthening and diversifying the Territories' economies.

The second part of the draft resolution addresses specific conditions in each Territory.

By the section of the draft on American Samoa, the administering Power would be called upon to assist the territorial government in the economic and social development of the Territory, including measures to rebuild management capabilities.

By the section on Anguilla, the administering Power and all States, organizations and United Nations agencies would be called on to continue to assist the Territory in its social and economic development.

Regarding Bermuda, the administering Power would be called on to elaborate, in consultation with the territorial government, development programmes specifically intended to alleviate the economic, social and environmental consequences of the closure of certain military bases and installations in the Territory.

Under the section on the British Virgin Islands, the administering Power, the specialized agencies and other organizations of the United Nations system and all financial institutions would be asked to continue providing development assistance, bearing in mind the vulnerability of the Territory to external factors.

By the section of the draft on the Cayman Islands, the administering Power and the territorial government would be called upon to continue cooperating to counter problems related to money laundering, smuggling of funds and other related crimes, as well as drug trafficking. Continued facilitation of the expansion of the current programme of securing employment for the population, particularly at the decision-making level, would also be requested.

Regarding Guam, the draft's provisions would ask the administering Power, in cooperation with the territorial government, to continue the orderly transfer of land to the people of the Territory and to take necessary steps to safeguard property rights. The administering Power would be asked to cooperate in establishing programmes intended to promote the sustainable development of economic programmes by the people of Guam, including the Chamorro people. The administering Power would be asked to recognize the political rights, as well as the cultural and ethnic identity, of the Chamorro people, and to respond to concerns about the immigration issue.

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By the section of the draft resolution on Montserrat, the administering Power, the specialized agencies and other organizations of the United Nations system, as well as regional and other organizations, would be called upon to provide urgent emergency assistance to the Territory in order to alleviate the consequences of the recent series of volcanic eruptions.

By the section on Pitcairn, the administering Power and relevant regional and international organizations would be asked to continue to support the efforts of the territorial government to address the socio-economic development of the Territory.

By the section on St. Helena, the administering Power would be asked to conduct a constitutional review of the Territory and to continue, in cooperation with relevant regional and international organizations, to address the socio-economic development of the Territory.

Also by the draft, the administering Power of the Turks and Caicos Islands, and other relevant regional and international organizations, would be called upon to continue providing assistance for the improvement of social and economic conditions in the Territory. The administering Power would be further called upon to cooperate with the territorial government to counter problems related to money laundering, smuggling of funds and related crimes, including the traffic of illicit drugs.

Regarding the United States Virgin Islands, the administering Power would be asked to continue to assist the territorial government in its political, economic and social goals. It would also be asked to facilitate the Territory's participation in organizations, especially the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States and the Caribbean Community.

Part VII of the report contains a draft resolution that would ask the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom to consolidate their current cooperation through the resumption of negotiations to find a peaceful solution to the sovereignty dispute relating to the question of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas). Also by the draft, the Committee would keep the question of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) under review, subject to directives that the General Assembly might issue in that regard.

Also before the Committee are three reports of the Secretary-General to the Security Council on the situation concerning Western Sahara. By the most recent of these, a report of 24 September (document S/1997/742 and Add.1), the Secretary-General notes that four rounds of talks conducted by his Personal Envoy for Western Sahara, James A. Baker III, had produced a number of agreements that would facilitate implementation of the Western Sahara settlement plan. The Government of Morocco and the Frente Popular para la Liberación de Saguia el-Hamra y del Rio de Oro (POLISARIO) agreed on a code of conduct for the proposed referendum campaign for self-determination, during

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which sole authority for its organization and conduct would be vested in the United Nations. The Special Representative of the Secretary-General would be responsible for guaranteeing the freedom of movement and security of the population. The parties undertake to do their utmost to ensure respect for those rights.

The report states that the parties also agreed to a set of practical measures by which the process of identifying referendum voters would resume, and that responsibility for implementing that process lies with the Identification Commission. By a declaration of the parties, it was agreed that the United Nations was required to conduct a referendum which is free, fair and transparent.

According to the Secretary-General, "these achievements create the conditions to proceed towards the full implementation of the settlement plan, starting with the resumption of the identification process". He recommends that the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) be provided with the resources to undertake such action on an urgent basis, so as to build on the current momentum.

Acting on the Secretary-General's recommendation, the Security Council, by its resolution 1131 (1997) of 29 September, decided to extend the mandate of MINURSO until 20 October, in order to prepare for the resumption of the identification process. The Council also welcomed the Secretary-General's recommendation that, following the initial extension, MINURSO's mandate be extended an additional six months, until 20 April 1998, to continue facilitation of the identification process. It expressed readiness to consider further action on those recommendations.

The prior reports of the Secretary-General on Western Sahara are dated 5 May (document S/1997/358) and 27 February (document S/1997/166), respectively, and review the situation in Western Sahara during the preceding periods.

In addition, the Committee has before it a report of the President of the Economic and Social Council (documents E/1997/81 and Add.1) which describes assistance to Non-Self-Governing Territories provided by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

The report states that some of the Caribbean Non-Self-Governing Territories benefit from the Caribbean component of the UNDP's Regional Programme for Latin America and the Caribbean. In the coming two years, the British Virgin Islands and the Turks and Caicos Islands will benefit from the expanded regional disaster response and management project, and the latter from the Support for Policy and Programme Development and Support for

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Technical Services frameworks. Montserrat, Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands continue to benefit from the Caribbean Multi-Island Programme.

The report states that the UNDP-supported Small Island Developing States Information Network (SIDSNET) and the Small Island Developing States Technical Assistance Programme (SIDSTAP), devised to enhance the flow of development information among small island developing States and to encourage exchange of technical expertise among them, will further enhance integration of the Territories into the global arena.

Future UNDP assistance to the British Virgin Islands will concentrate on social development and poverty eradication, as well as on the environment and natural resources management, the report states. The UNDP support in the Turks and Caicos Islands will concern the preparation of an integrated development plan, and assistance for the agricultural sector. On Montserrat, the ongoing volcanic eruption necessitated a shift in external aid towards the provision of emergency relief. The UNDP, in addition to supporting critical gaps in the emergency phase, also provided support for longer term resettlement efforts.

The report states that ICAO pays close attention to the needs for assistance of newly independent and emerging States, particularly through its Technical Cooperation Programme and its regional offices. Declining resources, however, make it increasingly difficult for ICAO to provide the assistance necessary to ensure the safe and efficient development of air transport.

A related report of the Secretary-General on implementation of the decolonization Declaration by the specialized agencies, and international institutions associated with the United Nations (document A/52/185) informs the Assembly that, in a letter dated 7 April, the Secretary-General transmitted the text of a resolution adopted by the Special Committee on that matter to several specialized agencies, which are listed in the report.

Also before the Committee is a report of the Secretary-General detailing offers by Member States of study and training facilities for inhabitants of Non-Self Governing Territories (document A/52/388). The report records that 46 Member States and one non-Member State have offered to make scholarships available for the inhabitants of Non-Self-Governing Territories. Among others, it cites that Austria's Development Cooperation Programme regularly provided vocational training and capacity-building in the infrastructure and education sectors in Western Sahara. The United Kingdom, during the financial year 1996-1997, offered 19 scholarships to students from the British Non-Self- Governing Territories. The Bahamas rendered assistance to students from the Turks and Caicos Islands, and in the future it would also be prepared to assist students from Montserrat and Anguilla.

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In another report (document A/52/365), the Secretary-General states that in 1997, information was received under Article 73 e of the Charter from New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. Under Article 73 e, administering Powers are required to transmit regularly to the Secretary- General information "relating to economic, social and educational conditions in the Territories for which they are respectively responsible". That includes information on the geography, history and population of the Territories, and in the cases of Territories under the administration of New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States, information on constitutional matters.

Statements

Fayssal Mekdad (Syria), Rapporteur of the Special Committee on decolonization, introduced the relevant sections of that body's report. He said that, to date, few of the specialized agencies and international institutions associated with the United Nations had responded to the Secretary-General's request for information on their efforts to implement the Decolonization Declaration.

UTULA U. SAMANA (Papua New Guinea), Chairman of the Special Committee on decolonization, said the transfer of the Special Committee from the Department of Political Affairs to the newly established Department of General Assembly Affairs and Conference Services had undermined the decolonization programme and had practically eliminated the political essence of the United Nations agenda on decolonization.

He said the Special Committee had sponsored a draft resolution which would urge the Secretary-General to maintain the decolonization unit, with all its present functions, in the Department of Political Affairs, and urged the General Assembly to adopt that text.

MACHIVENYIKA TOBIAS MAPURANGA (Zimbabwe), Committee Chairman, said that since the Committee's 30 September meeting, he had conducted consultations with the representatives of Morocco and Algeria, both of whom recognized recent positive developments with regard to the situation in Western Sahara. Both representatives had urged the Committee to recognize such progress, but could not agree on how best to do so -- whether through a draft resolution or a statement by the Chairman. However, neither objected to debate on the question of Western Sahara. He was pleased by those consultations and by the representatives' desire to hold further meetings.

EL HASSANE ZAHID (Morocco), thanked the Chairman for holding consultations on Morocco's proposal to suspend consideration of the matter of Western Sahara during the current session in order to avoid impacting on recent positive developments in the area. As the committee was a democratic institution, debate on the matter should be allowed. However, if debate was

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allowed, there should be an effort to prevent a negative impact on recent developments. It was that which Morocco had endeavoured to seek in a statement on the matter. Conditions were in place to implement the Western Sahara settlement plan, as noted by the Secretary-General, and as seen in the Security Council's decision to extend until 20 October, the mandate of MINURSO.

Morocco continued to believe that there was nothing more to discuss, he said. If there was insistence on debate, Morocco could only express regret about that. The Committee should, however, avoid excess in its debate. It was expected that the Chairman, in his wisdom, would act in such a way as to avoid jeopardizing the current positive developments.

LARBI KATTI (Algeria), thanked the Chairman for holding consultations on the matter and thanked Morocco for not objecting to debate on Western Sahara. How could debate jeopardize negotiations? On the contrary, it was time for the Committee to express its support for the recent progress in the form of a draft resolution. It was precisely this year that the Committee could express its support. Rather than limit debate to two delegations, a draft resolution should be approved by the Committee. It would be appropriate for the Chairman to expand the current consultations to address that possibility. Such a draft resolution would express delight at the progress achieved. Algeria would not do anything to call into question the progress achieved. Nothing the Committee would do would impede the work under way.

Mr. MAPURANGA (Zimbabwe), Committee Chairman, urged the representatives of Algeria and Morocco to continue consultations on the form of outcome they would like, whether that would be a statement by the Chairman or a draft resolution by the Committee.

General Exchange on Views on Decolonization

POSECI W. BUNE (Fiji) said that if the objectives of the International Decade to Eradicate Colonialism were to be achieved by the year 2000, the Fourth Committee, and in particular the Special Committee on decolonization, would need to review their working methods and devise new approaches to discharging their mandates. The Committee needed to be more visionary, more flexible and more realistic in the discharge of its responsibilities.

He said the first reality that the Committee had to face was that the issue of decolonization would not be resolved by the year 2000 -- or by the year 3000 -- without the full and active participation of the administering Powers. The willingness of those Powers to continue informal dialogue with the Special Committee was welcomed, but it was not enough. It was their full cooperation with and total commitment to the work of the Special Committee that was desired. He urged them to formally take their place in the Fourth Committee so they might work collaboratively towards the early resolution of

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the future of the remaining 17 Non-Self-Governing Territories. The administering Powers were also urged to resume their membership in the Special Committee on decolonization.

The Committee, by itself, did not have full and regular access to the people of the Territories, he said. Principles of justice and fair play demanded that dialogue be conducted with all parties to the issue. The administering Powers had a moral and human obligation to work with the Committee. The people of the Non-Self-Governing Territories must be able to exercise their full and voluntary choice for independence. Once that was done, the Committee and the administering Powers could enter into dialogue on the earliest possible date for the granting of independence, keeping in mind the mandate with respect to the year 2000. It was quite possible to complete these actions by that year.

He said Fiji was disappointed by the proposal in the Secretary-General's reform programme to transfer the decolonization unit to the Department of General Assembly Affairs and Conference Services, he said. The proposal seemed to be an effort to miniaturize and marginalize the work of the Special Committee on decolonization. The status quo of the decolonization unit should be maintained.

JORGE PEREZ-OTERMIN (Uruguay) said that over the past century, his country had firmly supported self-determination of peoples and would continue to do so. Nevertheless, on the eve of the next century, there was still work to be done. It was necessary to ensure that all the rights of the 17 remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories were upheld.

He expressed appreciation for the efforts of the Secretary-General's Special Representative James A. Baker III in facilitating negotiations on the question of Western Sahara. The results of those negotiations would be known next year after the referendum was held. In the meanwhile, the situation should be closely followed by the international community.

With respect to the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), he expressed the hope that progress would continue to be made in direct talks between the representatives of Argentina and the United Kingdom.

LAMUEL A. STANISLAUS (Grenada), speaking on behalf of Caribbean Community (CARICOM), called upon the administering Powers to continue to support the remaining colonies in their search for independence. The Assembly's omnibus resolution of 11 April 1995 in addressing the Non-Self- Governing Territory administered by the United States and the United Kingdom, correctly reaffirmed that United Nations visiting missions to the Territories were an effective means of ascertaining the situation there. The administering Powers and the elected representatives of the people in the Territories were asked to continue assisting in that effort.

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Given the continued relevance of the Special Committee, he said he could not understand why the secretariat of the Special Committee on decolonization had been moved from the Department of Political Affairs to the Department for General Assembly Affairs and Conference Services, when by nature and mission, the Committee was essentially political. Was that an attempt to hybridize and emasculate the Special Committee so that it could be committed to the dustbin of history and to an inglorious future?

Citing the continual volcanic eruptions in Montserrat, he said it was important for the Special Committee to continue to consider the situation there. The United Kingdom and CARICOM were providing assistance to Montserrat. The Special Committee was also called upon to provide resources and to establish a special fund to meet similar emergencies.

The Committee then approved seven requests for the hearing of petitioners on the question of Guam. It also accepted a similar request with respect to the question of Western Sahara.

Right of Reply

KATE SMITH (United Kingdom), speaking in exercise of the right of reply, in response to the statement by Uruguay, said her delegation's position on the matter of the Falkland Islands was already well known, having been expressed on 25 September in response to a statement by Argentina's Foreign Minister.

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For information media. Not an official record.