Argentina will deal directly only with the UK Government not the Falkland Islanders

In his State of the Nation address on 31 May, Governor Roberts commented that developments in Argentina gave grounds to hope that the Falkland Islanders might see new openings in their links with South America. He highlighted two particular areas: securing a second commercial air link between the Falklands and South America and resuming the exchange of scientific fisheries data to improve fisheries conservation management. 

The Governor commented that the UK Government was working hard to build a productive relationship with President Macri’s administration but the Prime Minister had made it clear that this would not be at the cost of the Falkland Islands: the UK Government remained unwavering in its commitment to the right of the people of the Falkland Islands to determine their own political and economic future. This firm support, he said, provided the necessary security and reassurance to allow the Falkland Islands Government (FIG), local businesses and families to plan for the long-term. 

The Argentine Foreign Minister, Susana Malcorra, commented briefly the following day to say that the Governor’s speech had been positive in as much as there was a clear interest in rapprochement. But she stressed that, whilst there was an opportunity to improve relations with the Islanders, "our differences are with the UK” and any links would have to be channelled through Argentina’s bilateral relationship with the UK Government. The Argentine Government was, however, "exploring available options” and as soon as they were properly developed, they would be shared. But it was "a complex, delicate issue” and the Argentine Government wanted to "gear it as it should.” 

Comment 

The Argentine Government has always portrayed their sovereignty claim to the Falkland Islands as a colonial issue and a matter of dispute solely with the UK Government. They claim that they would respect the interests of the ‘inhabitants of the Islands’ but avoid mentioning their wishes. They have never contemplated direct negotiations with the FIG and have been reluctant to allow any Falkland Islander to participate in a British delegation (although John Barton as FIG’s Head of Fisheries used to be included in the UK delegation to the South Atlantic Fisheries Commission from which Argentina withdrew under the Kirchners). 

The UK Government, on the other hand, has always made it clear that nothing will be done without the agreement of the Falkland Islanders. If Argentina is ever to make a positive impact on the Falkland Islanders, they will have to listen to them and understand their point of view – and if the Argentines want to develop a positive relationship with the Falkland Islanders, there will have to be a substantial change in their attitude towards them. There is no sign of that yet.