Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Tension Rising Between UK, Argentina Over Falklands/Malvinas

According to local media in Buenos Aires, the “illegitimate and self-proclaimed government” of the Falkland Islands cited “purported health problems” in barring a US-owned cruise-ship carrying Argentine passengers from docking in Port Stanley on Saturday (January 14).

Reportedly, Falkland authorities turned away the Star Princess due to an outbreak of gastric illness on the ship, although the vessel had been recently found in compliance with health protocols by the relevant officials in both Argentina and Chile.

The members of the MERCOSUR trade bloc (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay) agreed last month to prevent ships flying the Falkland Islands flag from docking in their ports.

Relations between Argentina and Britain have been tense since early 2010 due to oil exploration by British companies in the disputed islands. It is estimated that the islands may hold up to 60 billion barrels of crude oil.

The UK has rejected an offer by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to promote a dialogue between London and Buenos Aires on the controversy over the islands.

Argentine troops invaded the Falklands on April 2, 1982, at the order of the military junta then in power in Buenos Aires. Subsequently, hostilities broke between the UK and Argentina on May 1, 1982, with the arrival of a British task force, and ended 45 days later with the surrender of the Argentines. The conflict claimed nearly 1,000 lives on both sides.

COMMENT: Inasmuch as MERCOSUR has collectively unified itself on behalf of Argentina on a political issue, potentially trade matters between the four countries and the UK could be in jeopardy.

Additionally, with a US cruise-ship being turned away from Port Stanley, a tiff could also rise between the US and the UK, which would not be good for either country given their strong mutual interests in other political and economic spheres.

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