Amidst Renewed Tensions Between Britain and Argentina, UN Must Step in to Resolve Falkland Islands Dispute

This April will mark the 30th anniversary of the 1982 Falkland Islands war, and recent developments in a centuries-long dispute over this self-governing British Overseas Territory are causing the conflict between the United Kingdom and Argentina to escalate.

In the age of decolonization in which many Latin American countries are asserting their political, cultural, and economic independence from Central powers, it seems that a United Nations mediation of this conflict is the most logical next step.

Argentina’s foreign minister Hector Timerman met with UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki moon on Friday to lodge a formal protest against what Argentian President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner calls British militarization of the archipelago: Britain recently replaced another ship with destroyer HMS Dauntless, and deployed Prince William, who is a Royal Air Force helicopter pilot, to the islands for six weeks. The British government insists that these are routine operations.

The Christian Science Monitor reports that according to Argentina’s foreign ministry, “Argentines are saddened that Prince William will arrive on our soil in the uniform of a conquistador, and not with the wisdom of a statesman who works for peace and dialogue between nations.”

Ban expressed his concerns about the intensification of the dispute and offered to mediate the conflict if asked, but Britain has repeatedly refused to discuss negotiations, unless the people of the Falklands indicate that they want change. (For an article about a Falklands native whose request for Argentinean citizenship caused very different responses in Argentina and in the Falklands, see here.)

Although the two nations restored relations in 1990, tensions rekindled in 2010 after the discovery of oil in the waters off the islands. The United States has remained largely neutral in the dispute, and Hillary Clinton offered to help resolve the conflict last year — an offer the UK refused. Various Latin American countries, however, have expressed their support of Argentina in the dispute, and the South American trade group Mercosur announced a ban on vessels bearing the Falkland Islands flag from their ports last year.

It's not surprising that most recently, the conversation has taken a turn towards the colonial. President Fernández de Kirchner called Britain "a crass colonial power in decline," while Prime Minister David Cameron argues that "What the Argentineans have been saying recently ... is far more like colonialism because these people [the inhabitants of the Falklands] want to remain British and the Argentineans want them to do something else."

After so many centuries of complicated controversy since the Falklands were first discovered in the early 1500s, it seems high time to settle the dispute by means of mediation. 

For a timeline of Argentina-U.K. tensions since the war, see here. Click here for information about the discovery and subsequent settlement of the Falkland Islands.

Photo Credit: RAYANDBEE