It has been 30 years since the war over the Falkland/Malvinas Islands ended, but the question of sovereignty in the islands, located 248 miles off the coast of Argentina, is still very much fresh in the minds of those closest to the issue, including Jorge Argüello, Argentina’s ambassador to the United States.
Argüello, along with Ambassador Jorge Lapsenson, consul general of the Argentine Consulate General in Los Angeles, and Cristina Vallina, deputy consul general, visited the campus Wednesday (May 30) as guests of the UCLA International Institute, the UCLA Latin American Institute and its Center for Argentina, Chile and the Southern Cone.
Jorge Argüello, Argentina's ambassador to the United States.
During his mid-day talk at the Faculty Center, Argüello discussed the history of the 179-year-old conflict between Argentina and Britain for control over the Falkland/Malvinas Islands, and his hopes for a peaceful bilateral resolution to the issue.
“The U.K seeks to have a strategic foothold in the South Atlantic,” he said, adding that Argentina “has never ceased to insist upon restitution by the U.K.” after that country took control of the islands in 1833. The U.K. then expelled the inhabitants and denied Argentina of its “sovereign rights” over the islands, he said. Today, roughly 3,000 people of British descent inhabit the island.
Argüello spoke of the past years of cooperation between Britain and Argentina, the steps that were taken to promote the establishment of social, cultural and economic links between the mainland and the islands, and the inability of the two nations to now come to an agreement over the question of jurisdiction over the territory.
“The only obstacle for a solution is the lack of political will on behalf of the United Kingdom,”Argüello said. “The British presence in the islands can be explained by the existing balance of power between the U.K. and Argentina on the one hand, and between the U.K. and the UN on the other. In both situations, the U.K. enforces its authority by refusing to fulfill its duty regarding the call of the General Assembly of the United Nations. Unfortunately there is no higher authority we can turn to when one of the permanent members of the Security Council refuses to comply with its legal obligations.”
Argentina, he said, is dedicated to peaceful relations and negotiations to regain authority over the islands; the possibility of armed attack initiated by Argentina (as the U.K. is said to have raised) is “nonsense.”
The ambassador presents a gift from his country to Cindy Fan, interim vice provost for the International Institute.
Argüello told the audience of more than 40 that Argentina was recently “forced to report the U.K. to the United Nations Security Council for unnecessarily bringing weapons to the South Atlantic region,” referring to the recent deployment of a nuclear submarine to the islands. This vessel, he said, is similar to one recently deployed by the U.K. to the Persian Gulf, “an area whose high volatility is not comparable at all to that of the South Atlantic,” he said.
A bilateral agreement would mark a return to the mutually beneficial relationship once shared between the U.K. and Argentina, one that was highlighted by strong economic and trade links as well as a longstanding cultural connection, strengthened by the settlement of large British communities in Argentina from the 19th century on.
“We do not forget the important role played by Great Britain in the social and economic development in the early years of our nation,” said Argüello. He added that the international community, “which has invaluably supported bilateral conversations throughout the development of the Malvinas question,” will also view this effort as positive.
“We need political will on both sides,” said Argüello. “We need to work side by side to generate political conditions for consensus, and for that, we need courage and imagination. It takes two to tango.”