|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference by Permanent Representative of United Kingdom
It would be wrong to discuss the sovereignty claim “over the heads” and expressed wishes of the people of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) following their overwhelming referendum vote to remain a part of the United Kingdom, the country’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations said at a Headquarters press conference today.
Mark Lyall Grant expressed disappointment that Argentina’s Minister for Foreign Affairs had spent so little time, at his preceding press conference, talking about the people of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas). Héctor Marcos Timerman, accompanied by several Latin American, Caribbean and South American counterparts, had earlier called on the United Kingdom to discuss sovereignty over, and the territorial integrity of, the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), in compliance with previous United Nations resolutions.
He said the Government of the United Kingdom had held a referendum to determine the South Atlantic archipelago’s political status. With a 92 per cent turnout, and 99 per cent of islanders voting to remain a United Kingdom overseas territory, the people had chosen their own destiny, he said. The population, originating from more than 50 countries, had sent a clear and unequivocal message that their voices must be heard, he said, adding that an independent monitor had observed the referendum and the integrity of the result had been confirmed.
Mr. Lyall Grant refuted Mr. Timerman’s claim that the United Kingdom had transplanted people to the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) for its own benefit. Much of the archipelago’s population had lived there for some nine generations, much longer than most Argentines had been in Argentina, he said. Disputing allegations that his country was using the islands as a military base in the South Atlantic, he said the United Kingdom’s defence presence was merely to deter military intervention by Argentina.
He said there had been a “very active” dialogue between the United Kingdom and Argentina in the 1990s and early 2000s on all mutual interests, such as trade, fisheries, and transport. However, it was disappointing that the latter had walked away from those talks in 2007, he said, refuting Argentina’s claim that the United Kingdom was not willing to discuss the islands’ status. He reiterated, however, that it would be wrong to discuss the issue of sovereignty.
Asked about Mr. Timerman’s claim that the United Nations had not recognized the referendum’s legitimacy, Mr. Grant said the Organization had not dismissed it. He added that Mr. Timerman had discussed the Gibraltar referendum which was different from the recent one.
When asked why the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) population should have sovereign land when the Palestinians, who had lived in Palestine for far longer, did not, he said that he had merely stated that there were people on the islands who had lived there for nine or more generations, so as to refute Mr. Timerman’s claims that the United Kingdom had transplanted a population there.
Asked about the sovereignty of the uninhabited South Sandwich and South Georgia islands, he said it went back “a long time” and that Argentina had not claimed sovereignty over them until the twentieth century.
To Mr. Timerman’s suggestion that the new Pope was on Argentina’s side in the dispute, Mr. Lyall Grant said the Holy See had not traditionally taken a position on the issue, and he hoped that would not change.
Asked about United Nations involvement, he said there was no need for the Secretary-General’s good offices. The two countries could talk directly to each other is they so wished.
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