In April, on the 30th anniversary of hostilities between Britain and Argentina over sovereignty of the Falkland Islands, the Prime Minster, David Cameron, issued a statement saying that Britain remains firmly committed to upholding the rights of the Falkland Islanders to self-determination.
Recently, Argentina has stepped up its protestations over the status of the South Atlantic archipelago, which it knows as the Malvinas, as a self-governing overseas territory of the United Kingdom.
For example, Argentina has refused to let cruise ships land at its ports if they carry the British flag. Furthermore, legal action is being taken against five British firms prospecting for oil off the coast of the Falklands.
The BBC reports that on Tuesday, the Falkland Islands legislative assembly announced that inhabitants who are on the electoral roll will be able to vote in the Islands’ first-ever referendum. The vote in 2013 will concern the Islanders’ own views on which country should govern them.
A Downing Street spokesperson said the impetus for the vote came from the Falklands, rather than from mainland politicians.
Cameron, speaking about the referendum, accused the Argentinian Government of “shouting down” the Islanders’ rights to be heard on the matter of sovereignty. He added:
“Next year’s referendum will determine beyond doubt the views of the people of the Falklands. Britain will respect and defend their choice. We look to all UN members to live up to their responsibilities under the UN charter and accept the Islanders’ decision about how they want to live.”
The referendum announcement comes two days before Argentinian president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, is due to raise the matter of the Malvinas before a meeting of the United Nations special committee on decolonisation.
In 1965 the UN General Assembly approved a resolution from the UN Decolonisation Committee, calling on both countries to proceed with negotiations over the sovereignty of the Islands: “bearing in mind the interests of the population of the Falkland Islands.”
Both Britain and Argentina are signatories to the internationally-binding UN Charter, which provides for the “self-determination of peoples”, through peaceful means.