June 19, 2013
President: ‘we will keep on working for our rights over the islands’Wednesday, February 17, 2010
CFK signs decree to control Malvinas shipping
President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner yesterday signed a decree seeking to control all shipping out of Argentine ports to and from the Malvinas Islands, escalating her fight with Britain over drilling for oil and gas in the disputed archipelago.
The British government meanwhile said it was up to Argentina to decide how to regulate its ports and that shipping through the area will not be affected.
The government stated that, from now on, ships sailing from Argentine ports will need a government permit, and it will also demand authorizations for ships headed to the uninhabited South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands, over which Argentina also claims sovereignty.
“Any ships that want to travel from ports on the Argentine mainland to the Islas Malvinas, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands ... must first ask for permission from the Argentine government,” Cabinet Chief Aníbal Fernández told a news conference in Buenos Aires.
Earlier this month, the government protested to Britain over plans to begin offshore oil exploration drilling near the Malvinas islands, over which both countries fought a war in 1982. The President’s order, however, does not stop at shipping for the oil industry, it applies to any vessel going to or from the archipelago.
The Cabinet Chief said the presidential decree would force all ships bound for the islands or travelling through waters claimed by Argentina to secure the new permit, which could affect the growing cruise ship industry based in the Patagonian port town of Ushuaia, in Tierra del Fuego province.
Fernández said that Britain occupies the archipelago illegitimately and that it has failed to comply with United Nations resolutions requiring negotiations on its future.
The decree says ships must receive prior permission before entering Argentine seas, since Argentina officially considers the entire South Atlantic continental shelf to be its territory.
The decree did not say what action will be taken if ships fail to comply, and officials declined to comment beyond the wording of the decree, which was read by the Cabinet chief at the press conference.
A Permanent Commission to Evaluate Regulations, which will depend on the Cabinet Chief’s office, was created to co-ordinate actions and issue regulatory rules to implement the decree.
A British Embassy spokesman meanwhile said it was up to Argentina to decide how to regulate its ports.
“The way in which Argentina applies its laws within Argentine territory is a matter for Argentina ... the United Kingdom has no doubts about its sovereignty over the Falkland Islands and the surrounding maritime area,” the Embassy said in a statement. They added that they “are certain that oil drilling is a totally legitimate” activity.
Later yesterday, during a ceremony in Merlo, Greater Buenos Aires, the President defended the measure and said that her administration “will keep on working for our rights over the Malvinas islands.”
“It’s important to reaffirm our claims in sovereignty matters and the obligation to solve our conflict with Great Britain according to international law,” she said.
“There are a number of resolutions from the United Nations in which both countries are asked to resume talks to reach an agreement over sovereignty (of the islands) and for neither of the parties to take unilateral measures in the area,” Fernández de Kirchner said at the inauguration of a new section of the President Perón highway.
“These resolutions were systematically disregarded by the United Kingdom, which refuses to sit down and discuss as the United Nations orders,” she added.
The President said she will put the issue of the oil-drilling around the Malvinas islands in the agenda of the next meeting of the Rio Group.
Nearly three decades after the Malvinas War that killed almost 1,000 people, tensions over the islands simmer and the start of oil exploration has raised the stakes in the sovereignty dispute.
Geologists think the area around the islands could hold rich energy reserves although drilling in the North Malvinas Basin in 1998 did not lead to investment in exploitation.
Falkland Oil and Gas Ltd said on Monday it had agreed with Desire Petroleum Plc. to contract a rig to drill the first-ever well in the East Falklands Basin. The company said it expected the drilling to start within the first half of the year.
Last week, the government blocked the loading of steel tubes onto a ship, saying the vessel had operated in the islands and that there was evidence it had carried materials for use in the energy industry on the islands.
The government said in 2007 it would impose sanctions on companies linked to the industry in the disputed territory.
Argentina’s junta retook the islands by force in April, 1982, provoking a war with Britain, which recovered them two months later. The war cost 649 Argentine and 258 British lives.
But Argentina still has not given up its claims, and formally objected to the start of oil exploration.
Several British companies are poised to begin offshore exploration using a $35 million offshore rig, the Ocean Guardian. Desire Petroleum Plc. has licensed six areas where it predicts 3.5 billion barrels of oil and 9 trillion cubic feet of natural gas can be recovered.