‘Falkland islanders do not exist’ says minister

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The Argentine foreign minister yesterday said there is no such thing as Falkland islanders – claiming they are British citizens living in disputed islands.

Hector Timerman claimed the United Nations only acknowledges two parts in the conflict – the UK and Argentina.

It came a day after he told MPs that Buenos Aires would not recognise the result of a referendum of the islanders next month on whether they wish to remain part of the British overseas territories.

He also said in a newspaper interview that the islands would be under Argentine control within 20 years, while denouncing the British as “fanatics”.

The Falklands Islands parliament has written to Mr Timerman warning him “no amount of harassment and intimidation” would change their minds that they do not want to be ruled from Buenos Aires.

Speaking at a press conference in central London yesterday, Mr Timerman said: “The Falklands islanders do not exist. What exists is British citizens who live in the Islas Malvinas.

“The United Nations does not recognise a third party in the conflict. It says there are just two parts – the UK and Argentina.”

Mr Timerman refused to take part in talks with William Hague on the issue yesterday morning after the Foreign Secretary insisted representatives of the islanders would be present.

Legislative assembly members Jan Cheek and Dick Sawle were at the Foreign Office for the discussion and said afterwards they were “disappointed but hardly surprised” at his absence.

“It is, and must always be, for them to decide their own future,” Mr Hague said afterwards, affirming the Government’s full support for the referendum.

Ms Cheek said: “Mr Timerman dismisses us as ‘settlers’. Well, we are settlers. Like countries across the continent of the Americas, we came into existence through waves of settlement from Europe and elsewhere. Indeed, we Falkland islanders settled in our home long before many parts of Argentina were settled by the Argentines. Mr Timerman knows full well that it is simply untrue to say that we have fewer political rights than anyone else, or that the United Nations has said that self-determination does not apply to the Falklands, or that UN resolutions preclude Argentina from sitting down with us.

“Repeating these misrepresentations doesn’t make them any truer, however inconvenient for Argentina.”