Saturday
October 25, 2014

UK foreign office minister for Latin America Hugo Swire

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

UK official: Argentina has not asked for help identifying bodies

President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s administration has not requested the UK government’s assistance to identify the bodies of fallen Argentine soldiers who are buried on the Malvinas Islands, UK Foreign Office Minister to Latin America Hugo Swire claimed yesterday in a speech delivered in London.

“Regrettably, despite what is sometimes reported — or mis-reported — in the Argentine media, we have still had no such approach from the government in Buenos Aires (the national government). Our offer remains open,” he said, before taking a veiled swipe at the government when he added that “these matters should speak to our common humanity and not be the plaything of politics.”

Coinciding with the day of the president’s inauguration of a Malvinas Museum at the former ESMA clandestine detention centre, the speech was not entirely humanitarian, with digs at the Argentine government inevitably included.

“Efforts by the government of Argentina to bully and coerce this community have not only failed, but have proved counter-productive,” Swire claimed, adding defiantly that “the Islanders have had to overcome potentially damaging measures by Argentina aimed at undermining their economic livelihood.”

Swire also referred to the “inappropriate stunts” Malvinas residents “have come to expect, such as the Argentine football team posing with a banner claiming the Islands are Argentine,” arguing this only “goes to reinforce the Islanders’ sense of unity, identity and purpose.”

“The British Government remains committed to defending the Islanders and their right of self determination with the minimum force that is necessary, for as long as is needed,” he continued, calling for a “mutually beneficial relationship with Argentina in the years ahead” without compromising “on the principle of self-determination.”

“It is in the region’s interests and our own, to strive for harmonious, respectful and collaborative relations between all three parties.”

The Foreign Affairs Ministry declined to comment on the allegations.

Swire was speaking during the annual reception of the Malvinas government in the British capital, where he outlined his observations of the islands after a recent visit there and reiterated the UK’s position on the sovereignty debate surrounding the territory.

Bodies of fallen

The president had declared two years ago on the 30th anniversary of the South Atlantic War fought between Argentina and the UK, that the government had requested the intervention of the Red Cross in identifying fallen English and Argentine soldiers buried at the Malvinas’ Darwin cemetery.

“Each of them deserves their name on a tombstone,” she declared.

Swire took a similar tone, saying he found it “personally very sad, visiting the Argentine cemetery in Darwin in the driving rain, to see the graves of so many young men, unidentified and ‘known only unto God.’”

He added the UK government remained “sympathetic to any request from Argentina to collaborate in an effort to identify their fallen” and called on the government to “formally approach us and the Falkland Islands Government to establish a process for making this happen.”

“And so, let us raise our glasses to the Islanders and wish them, a prosperous, secure and self-governing future,” Swire said to conclude his toast.

In early March, Malvinas veterans from across Argentina made a pilgrimage to the islands — some for the first time — with one of their main concerns during the visit precisely the identification of the bodies fallen soldiers at the Darwin cemetery.

Herald staff

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