The government of the Falkland Islands, the British territory in the South Atlantic claimed by Argentina, said it will hold a referendum in the first half of 2013 on the islands’ status.
“I have no doubt that the people of the Falklands wish for the islands to remain a self-governing Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom,” Gavin Short, the chairman of the Falklands legislative committee, said in an e-mailed statement today. “We certainly have no desire to be ruled by the government in Buenos Aires, a fact that is immediately obvious to anyone who has visited the islands and heard our views.”
Britain and Argentina went to war over the Falklands 30 years ago after Argentinian forces invaded the archipelago. Tensions have heightened this year, with Argentina protesting at the U.K.’s deployment of a modern warship to the region and Prince William’s arrival for a stint as a military-helicopter pilot. Argentina said last week five British oil companies are operating illegally near the islands by exploring for crude.
“Next year’s referendum will determine beyond doubt the views of the people of the Falklands,” U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron said in an e-mailed statement. “Britain will respect and defend their choice.”
A total of 255 British military personnel were killed while 649 Argentinian lives were lost in the 1982 conflict over the islands, which Argentina calls the Malvinas. Britain has since reinforced its armed forces on the islands, which have a population of about 2,500 people.
“We have thought carefully about how to convey a strong message to the outside world that expresses the views of the Falklands people in a clear, democratic and incontestable way,” Short said. “The Argentine government deploys misleading rhetoric that wrongly implies that we have no strong views or even that we are being held hostage by the U.K. military. This is simply absurd.”
The Argentinian government said June 4 that Borders & Southern Petroleum Plc (BOR), Rockhopper Exploration Plc (RKH), Desire Petroleum Plc (DES), Argos Resources Ltd. and Falkland Oil and Gas Ltd. don’t have the required permits to operate off the Falklands. Salisbury, England-based Rockhopper and London-based Borders & Southern have announced discoveries.
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