Buenos Aires: Argentina peacefully reasserted its claims to the Falkland Islands on the 25th anniversary of its failed attempt to regain the South Atlantic archipelago by force.
Although Britain and Argentina restored ties in 1990, the status of the islands remains a source of tension and Britain says the islands will remain British as long as residents there favor British sovereignty.
“Neither war nor the passage of time changes reality: The Malvinas are Argentine,” said Vice President Daniel Scioli, using the islands’ Argentine name, in remarks applauded by 5,000 people, many of them veterans of the 1982 war with Britain.
“We call upon the United Kingdom to heed international calls and resume negotiations,” Scioli said during the ceremony in Argentina’s southernmost city of Ushuaia, 710 km southwest of the islands.
Scioli said Argentina hopes to regain the islands through peaceful, diplomatic channels.
President Nestor Kirchner was originally designated the keynote speaker but canceled without explanation.
Many Argentines especially supporters of Kirchner’s center-left government see Argentina’s 1982 invasion of the islands as a mistake by the nation’s now-discredited military dictators.
The 73-day war claimed 649 Argentine lives and 258 on the British side. Argentina surrendered on June 14, 1982.
But Argentines universally call the islands their own, insisting the British seized them by force in January 1833.
Scioli said Argentina’s soldiers acted valiantly despite the decisions taken by the “criminal dictatorship” that gave up power in 1983 partly due to the blow to prestige it suffered in the war.
Scioli said the government’s decision last week to scrap a 1995 accord with Britain on oil exploration in the South Atlantic was part of its insistence on first resolving the issue of sovereignty.
“Argentina is not against cooperation as long as such cooperation contributes to creating the appropriate conditions for resuming dialogue on the question at hand,” he said. “By way of dialogue, we will recover what belongs to us.”
The British government said Sunday it regretted the deaths on both sides in the war, and invited relatives of fallen Argentine soldiers to hold a private memorial service on the islands.
In January, Kirchner sent Foreign Minister Jorge Taiana to lobby UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to support new sovereignty talks. Taiana said Monday that Argentina would continue pressing “in all international forums for our rights”.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Monday said the Falkland Islands belong to Argentina and urged Britain to open talks with Argentina on the issue.
Chavez, who has previously backed Argentina’s claims to the islands, paid homage to the 649 Argentine soldiers who died in the war before their government surrendered.
“We pay tribute today to the heroic soldiers who gave their lives in an attempt to rescue what belongs not only to Argentina because when we speak of Argentina, we speak of the great South American motherland,” Chavez said during a televised speech.