DECOLONIZATION COMMITTEE SEEKS ASSEMBLY CALL FOR PARTIES TO 'CONSOLIDATE' DIALOGUE ON FALKLANDS (MALVINAS) ISSUE

6 July 1998
GA/COL/2986

DECOLONIZATION COMMITTEE SEEKS ASSEMBLY CALL FOR PARTIES TO 'CONSOLIDATE' DIALOGUE ON FALKLANDS (MALVINAS) ISSUE

6 July 1998


Press Release
GA/COL/2986


DECOLONIZATION COMMITTEE SEEKS ASSEMBLY CALL FOR PARTIES TO 'CONSOLIDATE' DIALOGUE ON FALKLANDS (MALVINAS) ISSUE

19980706 Consensus Text Says Argentina and United Kingdom Should Work For Solution to Sovereignty Dispute in Line with Assembly Resolutions

The General Assembly would reiterate that the way to end the special and particular colonial situation in the question of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) was the peaceful and negotiated settlement of the sovereignty dispute between the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom, under a draft resolution which was approved by consensus this morning by the Special Committee on Decolonization.

By the terms of the draft, which was sponsored by Bolivia, Chile, Cuba, Papua New Guinea and Venezuela, the General Assembly would request the two Governments to consolidate the current process of dialogue and cooperation, through the resumption of the negotiations to find as soon as possible a peaceful solution to the sovereignty dispute, in accordance with the provisions of the relevant Assembly resolutions.

The Assembly would also reiterate its firm support for the mission of good offices of the Secretary-General in order to assist the parties in complying with General Assembly requests in its resolutions on the question of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas).

By the text, the Assembly would express regret that, in spite of the widespread international support for negotiations that included all aspects on the future of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), the implementation of the General Assembly resolutions on that question had not yet started.

The draft resolution was introduced by the representative of Chile on behalf of the co-sponsors.

Also this morning, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, International Trade and Worship of Argentina said that, after eight years of promoting shared projects in the South Atlantic, it was surprising that the two countries had failed to sit down and negotiate a solution of the sovereignty dispute. Argentina had never ceased to express her willingness to do so, and that it was about time that the United Kingdom honoured United Nations resolutions which had asked both Governments to resume negotiations on the sovereignty dispute.

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A member of the Legislative Council of the Falkland Islands told the Special Committee that the Territory was a democracy and had been one for more than 160 years. The islanders were completely self-governing in internal matters and had recently amended their Constitution to take account of changing situations and population movements within the islands. The islanders did not look upon Britain as an oppressive colonial Power, but as an ally and helpmate, whereas they still saw Argentina as a threat.

An Argentine petitioner, who is the author of books on the islands, their customs and the historical, political and judicial implications of the sovereignty issue, said that in recent years emphasis had been placed on the right to self-determination as being the overriding issue at stake. However, until such time as the sovereignty dispute had been definitively resolved, it was impossible to judge if the inhabitants of the Territory might exercise that right.

The representative of Fiji said the issue for the Committee was one of decolonization, not sovereignty. There were other specialized agencies of the United Nations which were competent to deal with the sovereignty issue.

Statements were also made by the representatives of Brazil (on behalf of the MERCOSUR States -- Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay -- as well as Bolivia and Chile), Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, China, United Republic of Tanzania, Sierra Leone and Grenada. A petitioner from the Government of the Falkland Islands and another from Argentina also spoke.

The Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. tomorrow, 7 July.

Committee Work Programme

The Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples met this morning to begin consideration of the question of the Falklands Islands (Malvinas). Before the Committee was a draft resolution on that question, a working paper on the Falklands Islands (Malvinas) prepared by the Secretariat and aide-mémoire 11/98 on the hearing of petitioners.

By the terms of the five-Power draft resolution (document A/AC.109/L.1874), the Special Committee would decide to keep under review the question of the Falklands Islands (Malvinas) subject to the directives that the General Assembly had issued and may issue in that regard.

The text requests the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom to consolidate the current process of dialogue and cooperation through the resumption of negotiations in order to find as soon as possible a peaceful solution to the sovereignty dispute relating to the question of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), in accordance with the provisions of General Assembly resolutions 20/56 (XX), 3160 (XXVIII), 31/49, 37/9, 38/12, 39/6 40/21, 41/40, 42/19 and 43/25.

Also by terms of the text, the Committee regrets that, in spite of the widespread international support for a negotiation between the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom that included all aspects on the future of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), the implementation of the General Assembly resolutions on that question has not yet started.

It also 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 (Malvinas).

The draft resolution is sponsored by Bolivia, Chile, Cuba, Papua New Guinea and Venezuela.

According to the working paper on the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) (document A/AC.109/2105), the United Kingdom-administered Territory comprises East and West Falkland, as well as some 200 smaller islands. It is situated in the South Atlantic about 770 kilometres north-east of Cape Horn and roughly 480 kilometres east of the South American mainland. South Georgia, located about 1,300 kilometres south-east of the Falklands (Malvinas) group, and the South Sandwich Islands, lying approximately 750 kilometres east-south-east of South Georgia, are administered from the Falklands (Malvinas) as a separate Territory; the Governor of the Falklands (Malvinas) acts as Commissioner for South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.

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According to the paper, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Tony Blair, said in a January 1998 New Year message on the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) programme Calling the Falklands that he was committed to protecting the islanders' right to choose their own way of life and to ensuring their security. "At the same time, of course, I want to develop relations with Argentina, an important country and trading partner of Britain. I want us to have an open and constructive relationship. As part of this, I have invited President Menem to the United Kingdom next year. No doubt, other ministers will also meet over the coming year. I believe that such contacts will benefit both the Falkland Islands and the United Kingdom."

The paper also quotes another New Year's broadcast on the BBC by the Secretary for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Robin Cook, who said: "We have made it perfectly clear that the wishes of the Falkland Islanders are what count. They do not want to share sovereignty and in those circumstances there is no question of us agreeing [to] shared sovereignty ... There is no question of us agreeing to any settlement on the Islands that does not respect the Islanders' views."

On 10 June 1997, the paper states, the Government of Argentina said in a press release: "Since the beginning of its existence as an independent nation, the Argentine Republic has demonstrated, through actions by the Government, the firm political determination to exercise its effective sovereignty in the southern territories and maritime areas inherited from Spain.

"This effective exercise was interrupted when, in 1833, British forces occupied the Islands, expelling the population and the Argentine authorities established there. Subsequently, Argentine citizens were prevented from settling freely or owning land in those territories.

"The Argentine people and Government never accepted that act of force and today reiterate, just as in the past, their unwavering determination to regain, through peaceful means of diplomatic negotiations and in accordance with the numerous appeals by the international community, the exercise of sovereignty over the Malvinas, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas."

According to the paper, the Argentine Minister for Foreign Affairs, International Trade and Worship, during the general debate at the fifty-second session of the General Assembly, reiterated the position of his Government as follows: "In keeping with the repeated appeals of the General Assembly and the Decolonization Committee, we believe that its is imperative to resume negotiations on all aspects of the question of the Malvinas Islands. No Member of the United Nations should evade the obligation to resolve a dispute by peaceful means as laid down in the Charter of the Organization. We call for all parties to sit at the negotiating table and discuss all the relevant issues.

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"I trust that the new British Government will heed our appeal and that of the international community to pursue a dialogue without preconditions with a view to finding a definitive solution to the sovereignty dispute over the Malvinas Islands. To the islanders, I once again reiterate our firm commitment to fully respect their way of life, culture and institutions, as stated in our national Constitution."

The paper notes that in his statement to the General Assembly, Foreign Secretary Cook made no reference to the question of the islands. However, speaking in exercise of the right of reply to the remarks of the Argentine Foreign Minister, he said: "The British Government does not accept the Foreign Minister's remarks about sovereignty. We have no doubt about Britain's sovereignty over the Falkland Islands and over the other British dependencies in the South Atlantic."

The paper states that on 10 November 1997, the General Assembly decided to defer consideration of the Falklands (Malvinas) question and to include it in the provisional agenda of its fifty-third session (decision 52/409).

Statements of Petitioners

NORMA EDWARDS, of the Legislative Council of the Falkland Islands, said it was untrue that the Falkland Islands was a suppressed British colony and that the islanders were downtrodden poor relations and, as such, undemocratic. The Falkland Islands was a democracy and had been for more than 160 years. The eight elected councillors (of which she was one) represented a small electorate of about 1,500, out of a population of 2,300 approximately. The democratic process, therefore, enjoyed "a precision and clarity that is often lacking in larger democracies", she said. The islanders were completely self- governing in internal matters and had recently amended their Constitution to take account of changing situations and population movements within the Islands. The councillors, whilst part time, were very much involved in the running of the islands. Elections were held every four years to choose legislative councillors, and each year three of them were elected to the executive council. Senior officials also sit ex-officio on both councils, without the right to vote.

The British Government was responsible for foreign policy and defence. All councillors were fully briefed and involved in all decisions on those matters. The councillors had excellent channels of communication with the British Government, and those were well used. The islanders did not look upon Britain as an oppressive colonial Power, but as an ally and helpmate, should the islanders ever need to call upon it for help and advice.

She said Argentina was still a threat to the country. Since the conflict of 1982, the islanders had agreed to a joint area of cooperation for the exploration of hydrocarbons to the south-west of the islands. They had

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frequently appealed to Argentina for an agreement on the management of straddling fish stocks in the interests of conservation, and for the economic interests of both countries' fishing industries, but to no avail.

A decision had been made after the 1982 conflict that no Argentine national would be welcome in the islands until such time as Argentina dropped its claim to sovereignty over the islands. In the name of humanity and reconciliation, however, the islanders would continue to offer hospitality to the relatives of the Argentine soldiers who lost their lives in the conflict, and who wished to visit the graves of their loved ones.

SHARON HALFORD, a member of the Falkland Islands Government, told the Committee that she was a democratically elected member of both the Falkland Islands Legislative and Executive Councils, and as such represented and spoke on behalf of the people of the islands. She said the Argentine petitioners which would be appearing before the Committee had not been elected, and, therefore, could not speak on behalf of the people of Argentina. Also, despite what those petitioners might intimate about their Falklands connections, the reality was that they did not speak either as or for Falkland Islanders. She said the Falklands had evolved to become a thriving internally self-governing group of islands which were economically self-sufficient. Despite the Argentine Government's renunciation of the use of force in pursuit of its claim, threats continued.

She thanked those countries and delegations which had in the past supported, and continued today to support, the right of the people of the Falkland Islands to determine their own future. She asked those present to voice their support for the basic right of the islanders to self-determination, a principle upheld by the United Nations.

MARIA ANGELICA VERNET said her great-great-grandfather was the first governor of the Malvinas/Falkland Islands from 1829 to 1832, and legitimized Argentine sovereignty over the territories. In 1921, the legislative body of the province of Buenos Aires, exercising its legislative power in the Malvinas/Falkland Islands, passed an act on fishery and hunting along the Patagonian costs and adjacent islands. Great Britain remained silent and accepted the Argentine sovereignty.

She said she was convinced of the fair titles Argentina held over the Malvinas/Falkland Islands, and urged the Committee to promote a constructive dialogue between the United Kingdom and Argentina to solve the sovereignty dispute. The dialogue would be a step forward to a peaceful and final solution in accordance with United Nations General Assembly resolutions.

ENRIQUE PINEDO, a lawyer and member of the Argentine Academy of History, said that in 1832 an ancestor of his was able to arrest those responsible for the assassination of the Governor of Puerto de la Soledad (near the actual

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Port Stanley). They were tried, found guilty and hanged, proving that Argentina had jurisdiction over the place where the laws were infringed. On the other hand, soon after the British took command through irresistible force in January 1833, other murders took place. The suspects were caught and sent to England to be judged; but the English court understood that because the murders had taken place in lands that did not belong to the British Crown, they could not be judged there, and they were returned to South America. That proved that the English courts thought they had no jurisdiction over the islands, a belief shared by the former British Prime Minister, the Duke of Wellington, vanquisher of Napoleon.

He said that even in the days of Spanish rule, what was now Argentina, including the disputed islands, was populated by people whose descendants were still present in Argentina. The discriminatory immigration policy that barred Argentine nationals from entering the islands while travelling on Argentine passports was anachronistic and offensive, and seemed to be a clear act of discrimination. There were many more British residents on the Argentine mainland than British subjects in the islands. There were many more Argentines in London alone than there were British people in the Malvinas. Nobody would think it reasonable that their wishes be paramount and that they should be able to segregate a part of that city and hoist the Argentine flag.

ALEJANDRO JACOBO BETTS, author of three books on the islands, said that in recent years emphasis had been placed on the right to self-determination as the overriding issue. But until such time as the sovereignty dispute had been definitively resolved, and it was clearly established which of the two countries involved had full legal territorial sovereignty over the islands, it was impossible to judge if, and to what degree, the inhabitants of the disputed Territory may exercise the right to self-determination. People in the islands believed that the United Nations Charter underwrote self- determination as being of "paramount importance". But Article 73 of the Charioteer merely stated that "... the interests of the inhabitants of these (Non-Self-Governing) territories is paramount ...". It did not say that the right to self-determination was paramount.

He said the current inhabitants of the archipelago were not an indigenous population with a legitimate relationship with the Territory, but descendants of the illegal British colonization of the islands which had previously been peacefully and legitimately occupied by a sovereign State, Argentina. That population had recently been granted full British citizenship. Consequently, an unqualified application for self-determination would automatically result in the present occupants of the Territory perpetuating the illegal occupation of the current administering Power.

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Draft resolution

JUAN LARRAIN (Chile), introducing draft resolution A/AC.109/L.1874 on the Question of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), said it was also sponsored by Bolivia, Cuba, Papua New Guinea and Venezuela. The draft resolution was a new contribution to the dispute between two countries -- Argentina and Great Britain -- with which Chile maintained excellent and long-standing relations of friendship. It was Chile's conviction that a peaceful and negotiated settlement of the dispute was the only path that could be followed. He trusted that General Assembly resolution 2065 (XX), particularly its provision regarding the resumption of negotiations between Argentina and the United Kingdom, would be promptly implemented.

He said the draft resolution he had introduced did not substantially modify resolution A/AC.109/2096 adopted on 16 June 1997, and hoped it would be approved by consensus by the Committee.

Statements

GUIDO DI TELLA, Minister for Foreign Affairs, International Trade and Worship of Argentina, said the Special Committee and the United Nations General Assembly had recognized on many occasions the fact that the question of the Malvinas Islands was a special and particular case, whose status could not be compared to that of other Non-Self-Governing Territories. Resolution 2065 (XX) and other subsequent resolutions had shown that the international community recognized the existence of a sovereignty dispute between Argentina and the United Kingdom which must be resolved through bilateral negotiations. Similarly, he said, resolution 3160 (XXVIII) pointed out that there must be a settlement of the sovereignty dispute before the colonial situation could be resolved. Another way of proceeding in the matter would be to reward an act of usurpation which violated the territorial integrity of Argentina. By those assertions, he said, the General Assembly had very clearly determined that the principle of self-determination did not apply to the question of the Malvinas Islands, a thesis which was confirmed by the same General Assembly in 1985 when it rejected a British proposal for an amendment which included that principle.

The principle of self-determination applied only to peoples under colonial rule. In the case of the Malvinas, it was clear that its inhabitants were the descendants of settlers who were transplanted illegally into the territory by the occupying Power in the nineteenth century, after expelling the Argentinian population which was already there. To extend to those inhabitants who enjoyed full British citizenship the right of self-determination was tantamount to making them the referee in a territorial dispute to which their country was a party.

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After eight years of promoting shared projects in the South Atlantic, he said, it was surprising that the two countries had failed to sit down and negotiate a solution of the sovereignty dispute. Argentina had never ceased to express her willingness to negotiate. As to the United Kingdom, it was about time that it honoured United Nations resolutions which time and again had asked both Governments to resume negotiations on the sovereignty dispute. The people and Government of Argentina attached great importance and high priority to the recovery of the Malvinas, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands and their surrounding maritime areas. That permanent and irrevocable goal of his country could be achieved only through the peaceful path of diplomatic negotiations.

Argentina's commitment to peace had been asserted repeatedly by successive democratic governments and had been incorporated in the national Constitution of 1994, he said. Respect for the way of life of the islanders was also part of the Constitution. He reiterated that commitment, as had been done in previous years. Argentina trusted that the British Government would agree to sit down at the negotiating table and embark upon a frank dialogue on all aspects of the dispute.

CELSO AMORIM (Brazil), speaking on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) countries (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay), as well as Bolivia and Chile, reiterated the position taken by the Presidents of all those countries, at their 1996 summit, where they expressed their support for the legitimate rights of Argentina in the sovereignty dispute concerning the Malvinas Islands.

He also expressed the hope for a rapid resolution of the dispute between Argentina and the United Kingdom in accordance with the relevant resolutions of the United Nations and those of the Organization of American States (OAS).

It was the Brazilian delegation's hope that the draft resolution would be adopted by consensus.

SAKIUSA RABUKA (Fiji) said his delegation believed that the issue of sovereignty over the Falkland Islands was beyond the responsibility of the Special Committee and was, therefore, ultra vires of its mandate. The issue for the Committee was one of decolonization, not one of sovereignty. There were other specialized agencies of the United Nations which were competent to deal with the sovereignty issue. That issue had continued to delay action by the Committee on the question.

The Fijian delegation had not yet seen any substantive report by the administering Power on the progress, if any, on such discussion, if indeed any substantive discussion had taken place. Even if the sovereignty issue was being discussed under the auspices of the Secretary-General, such discussion should not obstruct the right of the islanders "to freely determine their

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political status" pursuant to the United Nations resolution and the sine qua non of decolonization.

While the Committee's mandate was to end decolonization, the future of the peoples of Non-Self-Governing Territories must be decided by the people themselves, he said. They must be facilitated to determine their own future freely and by their own choice, and they had the inalienable right to choose either independent statehood, free association with an independent State, integration with an independent State or any other forms of self-determination which the people concerned may decide upon.

The ideal mechanism by which the people of the Falkland Islands should freely and, by their own choice, determine their political future was by referendum, he added. The delegation of Fiji had strongly recommended to the Assembly's Special Political and Decolonization Committee last October, that in order to achieve the mandate of decolonization by the year 2000, a referendum or plebiscite should be held in each Non-Self-Governing Territory under special terms and conditions. That recommendation applied to the Falkland Islands as well.

RAMON ESCOVAR-SALOM (Venezuela) said his delegation supported the draft resolution in the belief that it would contribute to finding a solution to the dispute between Argentina and the United Kingdom. He hoped it would be adopted by consensus, as in the past.

RODOLFO ELISEO BENITEZ VERSON (Cuba) reaffirmed his Government's support for the Argentine Government in its sovereignty dispute with the British Government over the islands. As far as Cuba was concerned, Argentina's sovereignty over them was beyond dispute. He hoped the dispute would be resolved as quickly as possible, and that the position of the islanders should also be taken into account. He hoped the draft resolution would contribute to a just and lasting settlement in conformity with General Assembly resolutions.

ROBERTO JORDAN PANDO (Bolivia) said that consistent with its position in the past, his country supported the draft resolution. It supported the Argentine claim of sovereignty over the islands, hoping that a peaceful and lasting solution would be found. He hoped that the two parties would resume their negotiations in accordance with General Assembly resolutions. The draft contained positive and constructive steps which could contribute to a solution of the dispute.

HU ZHAOMING (China) said his Government advocated a peaceful settlement of the dispute and hoped the two countries would implement General Assembly resolutions on the question as soon as possible, and that they would do so through negotiations. China supported the draft and hoped it would be approved by consensus.

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DAUDI N. MWAKAWAGO (United Republic of Tanzania) said his delegation supported the draft resolution and appealed to Argentina and the United Kingdom to speed up negotiations by the year 2000.

The Special Committee then approved the draft resolution without a vote.

OTTO DURING (Sierra Leone), explaining his delegation's position after the action, said it believed that the resolution should make appropriate reference to the important issue of self-determination. As the Special Committee was aware, there was no alternative to that principle.

LAMUEL A. STANISLAUS (Grenada) said it was his delegation's hope that the dispute could be resolved through dialogue to the good of all the parties involved, and along the lines recommended by the Secretary-General. It was also hoped that the dispute would be resolved in the not-too-distant future, so that the inhabitants of the Falkland Islands would be able to chant "Free at Last, free at Last. Thank God, Almighty, we are free at last".

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For information media. Not an official record.