LONDON, United Kingdom – The UK’s Foreign Affairs Committee has released a report where it was revealed that members of the Committee are “disappointed” with the United States over the latter’s stance on the self-determination right of the islands’ inhabitants.
In a 67-page report, the Foreign Affairs Committee reserved a specially titled 2-page section, “Case Study: The Falklands,” where it delved into Britain’s ‘special relationship’ that it enjoys with the United States through the prism of the political situation on the islands.
In an otherwise very positive report documenting the close political ties the two nations share, the Committee did mention that they are “disappointed that the US administration fails to give priority to the principle of self-determination in its position on sovereignty of the Falkland Islands.”
The 11-member Foreign Affairs Committee, composed of five Conservative, five Labour and one Liberal Democrat Members of Parliament, noted their lament that “the United States has taken no position on the claims of sovereignty by the islands.”
The Malvinas/Falklands have been under British control since 1833, save for the two-and-a-half-month period when Argentina invaded and subsequently lost the 1982 war.
Argentina maintains that the islands were taken illegally as they were a part of Colonial Spain’s Viceroyalty of the River Plate to which it belonged, meaning that upon the loss of Spain’s South American colonies in the early 1800s, the islands in question were transferred to the newly independent Argentina.
Argentina has repeatedly attempted to bring up the issue at the United Nations, but the UK has replied by saying there is no need for discussion as the inhabitants of the islands clearly want to remain under British rule. Indeed, a referendum held last year on the islands resulted in well over 99% of the population voting to stay a part of the UK.
Argentina claims that in 1833, British forces displaced an Argentine settlement and have since occupied the islands colonially and implanted a British population there with no legal or historic rights and thus, rejects the referendum.
Instead, Buenos Aires has repeatedly called for bilateral dialogue while Britain says they will only participate in such talks if representatives from the islands, clearly in favor of the British stance, are allowed to have a seat at the table.
In its report, the Foreign Affairs Committee brought up the referendum, highlighting that the islands wished to remain a British Overseas Territory “with an overwhelming vote of 99.8 per cent.” The United States, meanwhile, did not recognize the results of the referendum as binding and officially remained ‘neutral.’
In addition, the US has consistently said that its government supports direct negotiations between the United Kingom and Argentina to resolve the issue. However, this will likely not happen any time soon due to the UK’s insistence on an islander presence at any possible talks while Argentina rejects the notion because it will ‘legitimize’ the islands politically.
Due to the position of the United States in its calling for dialogue and negotiation, many British political figures and organizations have expressed their opinion that the US is not truly ‘neutral’ in the conflict, as Argentina itself calls for dialogue.
Luke Coffey, a former advisor to a British Defense Secretary and now a member of the conservative Heritage Foundation thinktank in the US capital, told the Committee that Washington had “clearly abandoned its position of neutrality” in the dispute.
Coffey said that “Argentina’s official position over the status of the Falkland Islands is negotiations,” and by President Obama’s backing of calls for negotiations by Buenos Aires instead of remaining quiet (neutral), “this is a change from previous administrations and a departure from neutrality.”
Obama was further criticized by the Committee for “trying to play both sides” of the issue, wishing to keep the close ties with London intact while simultaneously trying to “maintain its role as master of its own house” in the Western Hemisphere. The US, meanwhile, has said that it has been attempting to improve relations with various Latin American nations, including Argentina, who is supported by its neighbors in its claims to the Malvinas/Falklands.
Another important figure, Sir Nigel Elton Sheinwald, Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the United States from 2007 to 2012, shared his opinion with the Committee and told the panel that the “US position on the Falkland Islands had been uncomfortable and not what we wanted.”
The report further expressed disappointment with the US and its position on the islands given that “among UK Overseas Territories other than the Falkland Islands, two-Ascencion Island and the British Indian Ocean Territory (Diego Garcia)-host substantial and long-standing US military bases.”
“These arrangements that we have constitute an important UK contribution to the bilateral defense relationship with the US, and that partly as a consequence, the UK’s Overseas Territories overall constitute an important asset in the UK’s strategic partnership with the United States,” the statement says.
Ironically enough given the situation with sovereignty in the islands in the South Pacific, the second territory mentioned, Diego Garcia, has a self-determination past of its own. In 1966, the UK expelled over 2,000 of the island native inhabitants, the Chagossians, in order to establish the territory as a US regional military base with a 50-year agreement. The Chagossians are still attempting to return and establish sovereignty on the island.
Regardless of the apparent differences between the US and UK views on the islands and their sovereignty, the report does state that the links between the two government remain very strong and that “in the spirit of realism,” the single issue “simply must take its place among the many other international questions on which the US and UK are engaged.”