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Falkland Islands in Argentinian waters: United Nations committee

The UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf has expanded Argentina’s maritime territory to include the waters surrounding the Falkland Islands.

This decision was welcomed by Argentina, and gives the country fresh impetus in its continued claims to the British overseas territory, however,  members of the islands’ legislative body have expressed concern over the control of natural resources found in the surrounding waters.

The decision comes seven years after a plea by Buenos Aires and is likely to fuel fresh tension over the disputed land.

It will increase the size of Argentina’s territory in the South Atlantic by 35 per cent.

Falkland Islands sovereignty dispute

Sovereignty over the Falkland Islands is disputed between Argentina & UK.

  • The British claim to sovereignty dates from 1690, and the Islands are under its de facto sovereigntyalmost continuously since 1833.
  • Argentina claims its sovereignty on the ground that islands were under its control prior to 1833.
  • Contemporary Falkland Islanders overwhelmingly prefer to remain British. They gained full British citizenshipwith the British Nationality (Falkland Islands) Act 1983, after British victory in the Falklands War.

Past occupants

  • France -1764-1766
  • UK- 1690
  • Spain- 1766

Falkland: timeline

  • Under the 1985 constitution the Falkland Islands Government (FIG) became a parliamentary representative democratic dependency, with the governor as head of government and representative of the Queen.
  • On 22 April 2009 Argentina made a formal claim to the UN to an area of the continental shelf encompassing the Falklands, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands, and parts of Antarctica, citing 11 years worth of maritime survey data. The UK quickly protested these claims
  • In 2011 the MERCOSURbloc agreed to close ports to ships flying the Falkland Islands flags, while British-flagged ships would continue to be allowed.
  • In March 2013 the Falkland Islanders voted overwhelmingly in a referendum for the territory to remain British.

Grounds of Argentine claim

  • The Argentine government argues that it has maintained a claim over the Falkland Islands since 1833, and renewed it as recently as December 2012.
  • That sovereignty of the islands was transferred to Argentina from Spain upon independence in 1810
  • The Nootka Sound Conventions: In 1789, both the United Kingdom and Spain attempted settlement in the Nootka Sound, on Vancouver. On 25 October 1790, these two Kingdoms approved the Nootka Sound Conventions. The Conventions included provisions recognising that the coasts and islands of South America colonised by Spain at the time were Spanish, and that areas south of the southernmost settlements were off limits to both countries, provided (in a secret article) that no third party settled there either. The conventions were unilaterally repudiated by Spain in 1795 but implicitly revived by the Treaty of Madrid in 1814

Grounds of United Kingdom’s claim

  • Self determination is a universal right enshrined in UN Charter, and applies in the case of the Falkland Islanders
  • In 2013 referendum 99.8% of Falklands voters voted to remain a British Overseas Territory on a 92% turnout.
  • UK claimed and settled the islands in 1765 before Argentina exist.
  • 1771 Anglo-Spanish agreement preserved the claims of both Spain and Britain, not Spain alone.
  • UK abandoned its settlement in 1774 due to economic pressures, but left a plaque behind proving sovereignty was not relinquished.
  • That the Nootka Sound Conventionsonly stipulated against further establishments and did not affect existing claims to sovereignty.
  • The” uti possdetis juris” is not a universally accepted principle of international law” and Argentina could not inherit the islands upon independence anyway as Spain did not have de facto control since 1811
  • That the islands have been continuously and peacefully occupied by the UK since 1833, with the exception of “2 months of illegal occupation” by Argentina.
  • That the Arana-Southern Treaty of 1850 (the ‘Convention of Settlement’), ended all possible claims by Argentina on the Falkland Islands.
  • That Argentine leaders indicated in the 1860s that there was no dispute between Argentina and the UK, and that Argentine maps printed between 1850 and 1884 did not show the islands as part of Argentina.
  • That the UN Special Committee on Decolonization resolutions calling for negotiations “are flawed because they make no reference to the Islanders’ right to choose their own future”.
  • The EU Treaty of Lisbon ratifies that the Falkland Islands belong to the United Kingdom
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