May 21, 2013
'Gov't will sanction banks, companies and funds backing Malvinas illegal oil drills,' Timerman
Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman gave a press conference announcing sanctions against banks and companies that partner with and/or finance oil companies conducting oil drills in Malvinas Islands.
Thus, the Argentine government took another step in the late diplomatic cross-fire with the United Kingdom over sovereignty of the Malvinas, Sandwich, and South Georgia islands in the South Atlantic Ocean.
Timerman’s presentation provided details on the immediate actions that Argentina will take against the “illegal hydrocarbon explorations conducted in the South Atlantic.”
The Minister explained that the United Kingdom “takes unilateral decisions and give exploration licenses to oil companies disobeying all UN resolutions indicating that decisions should be debated by the two countries as there is a existent sovereignty conflict going on."
Thirty years after it repelled an Argentine invasion of the Malvinas, Britain has vowed to defend the archipelago, saying it will negotiate sovereignty or oil rights only if the 3,000 islanders want that.
The local Government says Britain is flouting UN resolutions that call for talks and prohibit any unilateral action as long as the sovereignty dispute persists. Timerman said offshore oil exploration amounts to a unilateral move.
The minister called the exploration and drilling activities "illegal" and said Argentina will bring civil and criminal charges to sanction the companies involved.
"With these actions we assume the responsibility of defending Argentina's natural resources," Timerman said. "The South Atlantic's oil and gas are property of the Argentine people."
"We have run some research and found that not only banks, but also brokers, lobbysts and high risk investment funds are making Malvinas oil drills possible."
Timerman also indicated that “written warnings will be sent to those companies and entrepreneurs planning to invest in these illegal explorations. Likewise, Stock Exchange Markets worldwide will be warned that these companies are conducting illegal business.”
Britain reacted by saying it supported the rights of Malvinas islanders to exploit their oil reserves. This was an "integral part of the right of self-determination", a British Foreign Office spokesman said.
Several companies have drilled in waters off the islands. British explorer Rockhopper has been seeking a partner to invest in the $2 billion Sea Lion project.
Borders & Southern and Falkland Oil & Gas are set to drill wells south of the islands this year.
An industry source in London said legal action against companies involved in Malvinas oil exploration "will have no impact on Rockhopper's operations as they look to develop the Sea Lion project".
Borders & Southern declined to comment.
Timerman said companies providing logistical and financial support to the search for Malvinas oil will be included in the suits, along with the Ocean Guardian and Leiv Eiriksson drilling platforms.
"Argentina understands that without the participation of many other actors, these illegitimate activities cannot be carried out," Timerman said.