In yet another display of disdain for the Anglo-American Special Relationship, the Obama administration has weighed in on the mounting tensions between Great Britain and Argentina over the Falkland Islands. Just two days after Prime Minister David Cameron issued a robust statement in the House of Commons vowing to defend the sovereignty of the Falklands, the US State Department has undercut Britain yet again with a deeply unhelpful statement that plays into Argentina’s hands.
In response to a question on the Falklands at Thursday’s State Department press briefing, a US government spokesman supported direct negotiations between Buenos Aires and London over the sovereignty of the Falklands, something that Argentina has been pressing for aggressively, and which Britain sees as completely unacceptable.
As far is London is concerned, the sovereignty of the Falklands was decisively settled in the 1982 war when British forces retook the Islands after Argentina’s brutal military junta invaded them. The Falklands’ 3,000 inhabitants are 90 per cent British (according to the 2006 census), and 0.1 percent Argentine, and have no desire to live under the boot of Buenos Aires. There is nothing whatsoever to be negotiated over regarding the future of the Falklands, a position the British government has reiterated on numerous occasions.
Here is the official State Department press release on the Falklands issue published today – note the insulting use of the Argentine term for the Islands, “Malvinas”, a de facto declaration by the Obama presidency that it recognises Argentina has a legitimate claim over the Islands:
U.S. Position on the Falkland (Malvinas) Islands
Office of the Spokesperson
Question Taken at the January 19, 2012 Daily Press Briefing
January 20, 2012
QUESTION: Does the U.S. take a position on the recent posturing between the United Kingdom and Argentina over the Falklands?
ANSWER: This is a bilateral issue that needs to be worked out directly between the governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom. We encourage both parties to resolve their differences through dialogue in normal diplomatic channels.
We recognize de facto United Kingdom administration of the islands but take no position regarding sovereignty.
This latest statement follows an Organisation of American States declaration in June last year, where the Obama administration backed Argentina’s calls for negotiations over the Falklands, as well as a press conference given by Hillary Clinton and Cristina Kirchner in Buenos Aires in March 2010 where the Secretary of State again sided with Argentina.
This latest intervention by the current US administration is both hugely counterproductive as well as grossly insensitive. It will encourage and embolden Kirchner’s regime in its aggressive international campaign over the Falklands, with its ludicrous claim that the Islanders are “hostages” held by Britain against their will. Hillary Clinton and her officials would do well to remember that Britain lost more than 250 brave servicemen and women in restoring British sovereignty to the Islands, and their sacrifice will never be forgotten by the British people.
The repeated US call for a negotiated settlement, which dates back over previous administrations, is well past its sell-by date. This question was emphatically settled in 1982, and should not be and will not be reopened, and Washington should stop suggesting that it will be. It has nothing to gain by doing so, except winning the enmity of America’s closest friend and ally.
And as Margaret Thatcher told the House of Commons after the Argentine invasion in April 1982, the Falklands will always remain British:
The people of the Falkland Islands, like the people of the United Kingdom, are an island race. Their way of life is British; their allegiance is to the Crown. They are few in number, but they have the right to live in peace, to choose their own way of life and to determine their own allegiance. It is the wish of the British people and the duty of Her Majesty’s Government to do everything that we can to uphold that right. That will be our hope and our Endeavour and, I believe, the resolve of every Member of the House.