Argentina launches legal action to prevent Falklands oil and gas drilling
Argentina’s minister for the Falklands has claimed his country “harbours not the least desire to use force” to regain the islands as it started legal action against companies drilling for oil and gas nearby.
Daniel Filmus, Buenos Aires’s minister for the Malvinas, as Argentina refers to the British overseas territory, gave a speech in London in which he said the country was “forced to resort to defensive measures” to protect its natural resources.
He confirmed that three British firms – Premier Oil, Rockhopper Exploration and Falkland Oil & Gas – as well as Edison International and Noble Energy were being targeted by the legal action.
Philip Hammond, the British foreign secretary, responded to news of the legal claim by accusing Argentina of bullying.
Speaking at Canning House in central London, Filmus insisted the natural resources around the Falklands “belong to 44 million Argentinians”.
He said: “Argentina has been forced to resort to defensive measures making use of the law and political action as its main tools in order to protect the natural resources in the area under dispute.
“The existence of large-scale renewable and non-renewable natural resources in the area can produce an obstacle to dialogue by triggering growing tensions, or it could also be an incentive to return to the negotiating table.
“It is not only economic development that is at stake but also the conservation of the rich and fragile ecosystems of the zone.”
Hammond told Sky News: “It is an outrageous piece of bullying and threatening against the Falkland islanders’ perfect right to develop their own economic resources and Argentina needs to stop this kind of behaviour and start acting like a responsible member of the international community.”
Last week, Argentinian ambassador Alicia Castro was summoned to the Foreign Office after she and the country’s president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, launched new criticism of the British government’s plan to boost defences on the South Atlantic islands.
Michael Fallon, the UK defence secretary, announced recently that Britain was to deploy two RAF Chinook transport helicopters to bolster the defence of the islands, helping its garrison to mount a swift and decisive response to any incidents, against a background of renewed fears of a fresh Argentinian invasion of the islands, 33 years after the Falklands war.
Responding to Fallon’s comments, Filmus said: “The recent declaration by the British minister of defence Michael Fallon, who described Argentina as a very live threat, is in the context I have just mentioned, particularly incomprehensible.
“The Argentina republic, as you all know, is a peace-loving country. We do not have any conflict situations with our neighbours.
“In the particular case of the Malvinas, our own constitution puts down a mandate to pursue recovery of the full exercise of sovereignty only in accordance with international law.”
Before Friday’s announcement, Ian Hansen, chairman of the Falklands Legislative Assembly, dismissed Argentina’s actions, saying: “The Falkland Islands government (FIG) fails to see how drilling is in any way a provocation.
“We have the right to develop our economy, including the hydrocarbons industry, and we are exercising that right. Exploration drilling has been happening in Falkland Islands waters for many years.
“It is worth remembering that it was the government of Argentina who walked away from working with the Falkland Islands on the development of a hydrocarbons industry some years ago.
“Argentinian domestic law does not apply to the Falkland Islands and this latest action is clearly another attempt by Argentina to try to block economic growth in the Falkland Islands.”
Filmus said Argentina was not willing to accept that the islanders have the right to self-determination. “Argentina bears no grudge against the inhabitants of the islands, in spite of all the manoeuvres designed to prove otherwise.
“Argentina harbours not the least desire to use force to integrate the civil population of the islands, nor to alter their nationality or their way of life.
“It respects the human rights of those individuals and takes their interests into account in accordance with the specific mandate of the UN.
“However, that can in no way afford the islanders the right to free determination,” he said.
“What Argentina isn’t going to do is to give up or sacrifice our legitimate historical rights for the benefit of the present British inhabitants of the islands and the colonial interests of the United Kingdom.”
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