Country blasts UK for missiles in Malvinas
London says military exercises are ‘routine’ and do not pose a threat to anyone in the region
Argentina lashed out yesterday against the United Kingdom’s plans to carry out military exercises in the Malvinas Islands, with Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman calling the use of surface-to-air missiles “an act of colonial aggression.”
Timerman’s deputy, Eduardo Zuaín, summoned the British ambassador in Buenos Aires, John Freeman, to deliver a letter of protest rejecting the military exercises that have allegedly been scheduled “between April 14 and April 27 on occupied Argentine territory,” the foreign minister said. The exercises will include the launch of Rapier missiles, which the Foreign Ministry says are the same weapon used by British forces during war.
London dismissed suggestions that the UK is seeking to threaten Argentina, with a Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) spokesperson saying the exercises Timerman referred to are “routine” and emphasized that measures had been put into place to prevent any dangers to sailors and pilots in the area.
During a press conference from Government House, Timerman said that Argentina will now “focus on the diplomatic realm to denounce these exercises, the hostility that they represent for our country and we will use diplomatic paths until Great Britain desists from military actions in a disputed territory.”
Timerman said that the UK military exercises and missile launch in the Malvinas fit “a pattern of behaviour denounced by the president last April 2, and as such are a repetition of the provocations and hostile actions against Argentina by a nuclear extra-continental power.”
Furthermore, Timerman alleged that “the actions are another example of the United Kingdom ignoring United Nations resolutions which call upon both parties to resume sovereignty negotiations and to refrain from making unilateral modifications to the situation for as long as the dispute remains.”
The exchanges come just over a week after President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner accused the United Kingdom of converting the Malvinas into NATO’s “nuclear base in the South Atlantic.”
Focusing on the fact that “Rapier” missiles will be launched as part of the military exercises, the Foreign minister said that “these are the same that are used and have been used by British forces in diverse wartime scenarios, including in the Middle East and in Afghanistan.”
The FCO spokesperson, however, countered the impression that Rapier missiles were somehow a particular threat, saying that “Rapier missiles are short range surface-to-air missiles (8.2 km) designed to provide air defence in the immediate proximity of the Falkland Islands. There is no risk of them falling outside Falkland Islands’ waters.” Furthermore, the spokesperson added that the exercises have taken place approximately twice a year for several years and that the details of the launches have been made available to Argentine authorities.
Timerman ascribed the military exercises as part of the United Kingdom’s efforts to advance its strategic interests in the South Atlantic, the Antarctic, the Pacific and Indian Oceans and that its control of the Malvinas Islands allows it to exert its influence from the eastern coast of South America to the western coasts of southern Africa.
For his part, Defence Minister Agustín Rossi also joined in on the criticism of London, saying that the “United Kingdom has converted the Malvinas into one of the most militarized territories in the world and the upcoming military exercises, with the launching of missiles, exposes the true British objectives for the area.”
The FCO spokesperson rejected the characterization, saying that “UK forces numbers have declined to the minimum necessary to defend the islands” and that there were no designs on the wider region.
With regard to complaints by the Foreign Minister that the United Kingdom had brought nuclear capabilities into the region, the FCO spokesperson repeated the UK’s stance that “the United Kingdom ratified the protocols to the Nuclear Weapons Free Zone covering Latin America and the Caribbean (the Treaty of Tlateloco) in 1969, and it fully respects these obligations.”
Timerman announced that the strongly worded letter of protest presented to Ambassador Freeman was intended to be relayed to UK Foreign Secretary William Hague. As of press time yesterday a diplomatic response to the letter of protest had not been received by the Argentine Foreign Ministry.
Similarly, a complaint sent to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon yesterday morning had not yet been replied but the Foreign minister announced that he had requested that the complaint be circulated to every member state of the United Nations.
Complaints had also been sent to the International Maritime Organization, Unasur, the Organization of American States (OAS), the Ibero-American Summit, the Arab League, Mercosur, Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), the African Union, the G77 plus the People’s Republic of China and the South Atlantic Peace and Cooperation Zone (ZPCAS).