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MALVINAS ISLANDS

Map of the Malvinas Islands

(picture of the Malvinas Islands - © Copyright Pablo Ruíz Díaz)  

 

Resolution of the United Nations Special Committee on Decolonisation on the Malvinas Islands                                       

Resolución del Comité de Descolonización de Naciones Unidas sobre las Islas Malvinas

OAS General Assembly Declaration on the Malvinas Islands

Declaración de la Asamblea General de la OEA

Address by the Foreign Minister of the Argentine Republic to the United Nations Special Committee on Decolonization

Discurso del Canciller en la reunión del Comité de Descolonización de Naciones Unidas

 

 

Historical precedents


The Malvinas Islands became part of an area under Spanish jurisdiction with the entry into force of the first international instruments to delimit the “New World” soon after its discovery in 1492. Papal Bulls and the Treaty of Tordesillas of 1494 are the first instruments reflecting Spanish titles in accordance with international law of the period.
For most of the 16th century only navigators in the service of Spain travelled the maritime routes along the South American coast, advancing southwards in their search for an inter-oceanic passage. In this process the Malvinas Islands were discovered by members of Magellan’s expedition of 1520. From that moment on they were recorded on European maps under a variety of names and remained under effective control of the Spanish authorities.
During the 17th century the Malvinas Islands were sighted by navigators from other nations who had ventured into Spanish domains at the risk of provoking reactions and protests from Spain whenever it received news of such expeditions. But the whole southern region of America, with its coasts, seas and islands, indisputably remained under Spanish sovereignty through the different treaties signed in the period, such as the “American “ Treaty of 1670 between Spain and England.
The Peace of Utrecht, signed in 1713, assured the integrity of Spain’s possessions in South America and confirmed its exclusive right to sail in the waters of the South Atlantic. As a signatory of the Utrecht agreements, and of later treaties in the 18th century ratifying them, England accepted these clauses. However, towards the middle of that century, the Malvinas Islands provoked the interest of Great Britain and France, which were seeking to establish a strategically located settlement opposite the Strait of Magellan.
In 1749 Spain received news of a British project to settle the Malvinas Islands and strongly protested to the government of Great Britain which as a consequence decided against it.
When in 1764 France established Port Louis on Soledad Island, Spain objected and won the recognition of its rights to the islands from France. The French government ordered the evacuation and handover of the settlement to the Spanish authorities. The handover was made in 1767 and from then on a Spanish governor responsible to Buenos Aires was resident in the Malvinas Islands.
The year after the French settlement, a clandestine British expedition arrived in the archipelago and in 1766 English sailors established a fort at a place they named Port Egmont on an island to the west of Gran Malvina. Despite the secrecy of the British government, Spain became aware of it and insisted on protesting its rights. Not receiving an acceptable response, it set out to find the illegal settlement and in 1770 expelled the settlers by force. As a result of that act, both countries were on the verge of war which was averted by a bilateral agreement signed in 1771. This agreement consisted of a Declaration by which Spain returned Port Egmont to the British in order to save the honour of the King of England, making express reservation of its sovereignty over the whole of the Malvinas Islands, and also of an Acceptance of this Declaration in which Great Britain remained silent as to the reservation of Spanish rights. As part of the agreement it was verbally agreed that the English would withdraw from Port Egmont, which they did in 1774. From then on the Spanish authorities in Puerto Soledad continued to exercise their jurisdiction and control over the whole of the archipelago.
In 1790, with the signing of the Treaty of San Lorenzo at the El Escorial, Great Britain undertook not to establish any settlements on either the eastern or the western coasts of South America or on the adjacent islands already occupied by Spain such as the Malvinas Islands.
Spain appointed a succession of thirty-two governors in the Malvinas Islands up to 1811, when the garrison at Puerto Soledad was summoned to Montevideo to defend the the Spanish monarchy at the beginning of the Wars of Independence. In the framework of this conflict, the first governors of the United Provinces of the Río de la Plata included the Malvinas in different administrative acts, considering them an integral part of their territory inherited from Spain by the succession of States in accordance with the uti possidetis juris of 1810.
In 1820, while difficult conditions reigned due to internal struggles faced by the Argentine state in formation, naval Officer David Jewett took possession of the Malvinas Islands on behalf of the United Provinces of the Río de la Plata at a public ceremony at Puerto Soledad, which was attended by sealers and whalers of different nationalities, including American and British, who happened to disembark on the islands in the course of their work. The news was published in the media in the United States and the United Kingdom but there was no official comment from either country. Nor did Great Britain stake any claim to the Malvinas Islands in the process of recognition of Argentina which ended with the signing by both countries of the Treaty of Friendship, Trade and Navigation in 1825.
During the 1820s, Argentine governments took various actions confirming their sovereignty over the Malvinas Islands, including the appointment of governors, legislation on fishing resources and the granting of territorial concessions. As a result, Puerto Soledad grew and its inhabitants worked in stockbreeding, sealing and providing services to the boats which came into port.
On 10 June 1829, the Argentine government enacted a decree creating the Political and Military Command of the Malvinas Islands. After having remained silent for over 50 years, in the course of which there had been successive uncontested Spanish and Argentine administrations in the Malvinas Islands, in November 1829 the United Kingdom objected to that decree against the backdrop of renewed strategic interest in the South Atlantic.
At the end of 1831, a United States warship razed Puerto Soledad as reprisal for the capture of sealing vessels caught infringing fishing laws by the Argentine authorities. The Argentine government immediately began attempts to obtain reparations from the United States and at the same time sent a navy schooner to restore order in the islands upset by the arrival of the American vessel.
 

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Origin of the sovereignty dispute


Once order had been restored in Puerto Soledad, a British Royal Navy corvette, with the support of another warship in the vicinity, threatened to use greater force and demanded the surrender and handover of the settlement. After the expulsion of the Argentine authorities and population, in 1834 the British government assigned a Navy officer to remain in the islands and only in 1841 did it decide to “colonise” the Malvinas Islands and appoint a “governor”.
The act of force of 1833, carried out in peacetime without prior communication or declaration by a government friendly to the Argentine Republic, was immediately rejected and protested against. On 16 January 1833, when news of the events in the Malvinas Islands reached Buenos Aires, the Argentine government demanded explanations from the British Chargé d’Affaires who was unaware of the actions carried out by vessels of his country. On 22 January the Minister of Foreign Affairs presented a protestation to the British government official, which was renewed and extended on repeated occasions by the Argentine representative in London. The Argentine presentations were rejected by the British government.
The issue remained unsettled and was recognised as such by the British Foreign Secretary in 1849. Meanwhile Argentina continued to present the issue at different levels of government and it became a subject of debate in the Argentine Congress. In 1884, at the lack of response to the protests, Argentina proposed to submit the issue to international arbitration, which was also rejected by the United Kingdom without any reason being given.
From that time on, the Argentine Republic made repeated demands formulating the relevant protests whenever it had notice of British actions contradicting its sovereignty over the Malvinas Islands, South Georgia and South Sandwich and the surrounding maritime spaces not only bilaterally but also in different multilateral fora, including the United Nations and the Organisation of American States, thus promoting the adoption of resolutions calling on both Parties to settle the controversy and of declarations in support of the Argentine position.
 

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There are only two parties to the sovereignty dispute: the Argentine Republic and the United Kingdom


Within the framework of Resolution 2065 (XX) of 1965 of the General Assembly of the United Nations - which establishes that the controversy between the Argentine Republic and the United Kingdom concerning the sovereignty over the islands must be solved through negotiations which take into account the dispositions and objectives of the United Nations Charter, Resolution 1514 (XV) of the General Assembly as well as the interests of the population of the islands - a process of bilateral negotiations got under way which analysed various formulas to solve the dispute. No agreement was reached.
In 1982 the conflict of the South Atlantic took place and diplomatic relations between Argentina and the United Kingdom were broken off. These were restored in February 1990.
 

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Present situation


Bilateral diplomatic relations between the Argentine Republic and the United Kingdom were restored as a result of the Joint Declarations of Madrid of 1989 and 1990 which adopted a formula safeguarding sovereignty and jurisdiction over the Malvinas Islands, South Georgia and South Sandwich and the surrounding maritime spaces. Pursuant to the Joint Declaration of 19 October 1989, this formula applies to all bilateral meetings concerning practical aspects in connection with the Malvinas as well as with declarations and acts of the parties or third parties which occur as a consequence of what has been agreed at the meetings.
After the 1989 and 1990 Joint Statements signed in Madrid with the United Kingdom various provisional understandings on practical questions related to the South Atlantic were adopted in successive joint statements and exchanges of notes in accordance with the formula of safeguarding of sovereignty. These refer to mutual trust-building measures in military matters in order to avoid incidents, conservation of fishing resources, exploration and exploitation of hydrocarbons, air and sea communications between the Argentine mainland and the islands, access by Argentine passport holders to the islands, the construction of a memorial to the Argentines who fell in the islands in 1982, the exchange of information on the outer delimitation of the continental shelf, the carrying out of a feasibility study on mine clearance in the Malvinas Islands and the analysis of place names in the Malvinas Islands. Such understandings concerning the creation of a modus vivendi for the area in dispute have a provisional character and aim at bringing about conditions for resuming negotiations about sovereignty.
 

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Sovereignty is the core of the dispute


The sovereignty question, the issue that is central to the dispute, has not yet been addressed due to the reluctance of the United Kingdom to include this topic in the negotiations despite the many calls of the international community in favour of a definitive solution.
The First Transitory Provision of the Argentine National Constitution of 1994 stipulates: "The Argentine Nation ratifies its legitimate and imprescriptible sovereignty over the Malvinas Islands, South Georgia and South Sandwich and the corresponding maritime and island spaces, as they are an integral part of the national territory. The recovery of said territories and the full exercise of sovereignty, respectful of the way of life of their inhabitants and in accordance with the principles of International Law, are a permanent and irrenounceable objective of the Argentine people.”
President Kirchner’s Government has reaffirmed State policy as regards the Malvinas Islands Question which favours the search for ways to resume negotiations on sovereignty and has continued to comply with the provisional understandings under the sovereignty formula with the United Kingdom on practical aspects of the South Atlantic, displaying its willingness to enter into new understandings which might be of interest to Argentina and contribute to create the conditions for the resumption of negotiations on sovereignty.
On 2 April 2006, at the commemoration ceremony dedicated to the veterans and the fallen of the Malvinas war, President Nestor Kirchner said: “Our citizens, our people have the common determination to rescue the sovereignty over our islands. Once more therefore we express again our will to resume dialogue with the United Kingdom. It will be a dialogue between democracies to face and solve a controversy which affects our relations. It will be a process in which we shall show good faith and which will require good faith, tenacity and good will also on behalf of the United Kingdom. They have to show good will to negotiate about our sovereignty over the Malvinas Islands.”
The call on the United Kingdom to comply with the repeated international summonses to resume negotiations on sovereignty in accordance with the resolutions and declarations of the United Nations and the Organisation of American States has been repeated in international and regional organisations and to the international community in general, as well as the permanent willingness of Argentina in this regard. At the same time, the Argentine government has reaffirmed its respect for the way of life of the islanders guaranteed by the National Constitution and the Argentine commitment to consider their interests, pursuant to the United Nations resolutions.
Notwithstanding the above, the Argentine Republic rejects and objects to British unilateral acts in the disputed area which do not take into account the provisional understandings under the sovereignty formula and are contrary to the provisions of Resolution 31/49 of the United Nations General Assembly, which urges the Parties to abstain from introducing unilateral modifications in the situation.
 

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General Assembly of the United Nations


On 14 December 1960, the General Assembly adopted Resolution 1514 (XV) “Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples” which proclaimed “the necessity of bringing to a speedy and unconditional end colonialism in all its forms and manifestations“, enshrining two fundamental principles that were to guide the decolonisation process: self-determination and territorial integrity.
 

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The principle of self-determination does not apply to the Malvinas Islands Question


The specificity of the Malvinas Islands Question lies in the fact that the United Kingdom occupied the islands by force in 1833, expelled the original population and did not allow its return, thus violating Argentine territorial integrity. Therefore, the possibility of applying the principle of self-determination is ruled out, as its exercise by the inhabitants of the islands would cause the “disruption of the national unity and territorial integrity” of Argentina. It is important to note that Resolution 1514 (XV) “Declaration on the granting of independence to colonial countries and peoples” stipulates in paragraph 6 “Any attempt aimed at partial or total disruption of the national unity and the territorial integrity of a country is incompatible with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations”.
The General Assembly of the United Nations included this doctrine in the Malvinas Question - it applies the principle of territorial integrity taking into account the interests and NOT the wishes of the population of the islands - in its resolution 2065 (XX) of 1965 which was reaffirmed by other resolutions in 1973 (3160, XXVIII) 1976 (31/49), 1982 (37/9), 1983 (38/12), 1984 (39/6), 1985 (40/21), 1986 (41/40), 1987 (42/19) y 1988 (43/25). They all declare the existence of a sovereignty dispute and reaffirm the invitation made in resolution 2065 (XX) to the Parties “to proceed without delay with the negotiations recommended by the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples with a view to finding a peaceful solution to the problem, bearing in mind the provisions and objectives of the Charter of the United Nations and of General Assembly Resolution 1514 (XV) and the interests of the population of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas)“.
As of 2004, by virtue of a process of revitalisation of the General Assembly, the Argentine government ensured that the Malvinas Islands Question appeared on the permanent agenda and in the
Document of the General Assembly Bureau. The topic may be discussed subject to prior notification by a Member State.


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Special Committee on Decolonisation of the United Nations


This Committee, currently comprising twenty-seven countries, annually adopts a resolution which -among other things- requests both governments to consolidate the present process of dialogue and cooperation through the resumption of negotiations, with a view to finding a peaceful solution to the controversy over sovereignty as soon as possible. The last Resolution of this type was made on 15 June 2006.
In relation to this subject, the United Nations Secretary General said, in his report of 5 April 2005 on the Second Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism that, in the case of the Malvinas Islands, there exists a sovereignty dispute and that the Special Committee on Decolonisation and the General Assembly have continued to urge the interested governments to continue negotiating in order to find a definitive solution to this question.


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Organisation of American States


Every year since 1982, the General Assembly of the Organisation of American States has adopted a resolution, and since 1993 a declaration stating that the Malvinas Islands Question is of permanent interest to the whole hemisphere. It calls on Argentina and the United Kingdom to resume negotiations with a view to finding a peaceful and definitive solution to the sovereignty dispute as soon as possible; it expresses its satisfaction at the reaffirmation of the will of the Argentine government to continue exploring all possible ways to securing a peaceful solution to the controversy, particularly its positive considerations on the inhabitants of the Malvinas Islands; and decides to continue examining the question until its final solution. The last pronouncement of this type was made on 6 June 2006.
 

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Mercosur


On 25 June 1996 the Mercosur member countries Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay plus Bolivia and Chile expressed in the Declaration of Potrero de los Funes their full support for Argentina’s rights of sovereignty over the Malvinas Islands, South Georgia and South Sandwich and their surrounding maritime spaces, sending a clear message from the subregional bloc on the need to find a solution to the controversy. Their full support was reiterated in the Asuncion Declaration of 15 June 1999.
On 21 July 2006, the Mercosur member countries and associated countries issued a joint press statement: “We renew the commitment with the “Declaración sobre Malvinas” signed at Potrero de los Funes on the 25 June 1996, reaffirming our support for the legitimate rights of the Argentine Republic in the sovereignty dispute regarding the Malvinas Question. Likewise, we recall the hemispheric interest in seeing the protracted dispute between the Argentine Republic and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland over the Malvinas Islands, South Georgia Islands and South Sandwich Islands and the maritime surrounding areas reach a prompt solution in conformity with the resolutions and declarations of the United Nations and the Organisation of American States”.


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South American Summits


The Rio Group has issued statements on the Malvinas Islands Question since 1993. On the occasion of the treatment of the question by the Special Committee on Decolonisation of the United Nations and the Fourth Commission of the General Assembly of the United Nations, the representative of the country occupying the Group Secretariat that year intervened in the debates on behalf of the Rio Group.
On 10 May 2005 the Rio Group issued a declaration supporting the legitimate rights of the Argentine Republic in the sovereignty dispute and expressed its concern over the inclusion of the South Atlantic islands in Annex II to the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe of 29 October 2004. Copies of this declaration were submitted by the Argentine embassies to foreign ministries in all the European Union Member States and to European Union authorities.
On 2nd March 2007, the Rio Group issued this statement: The Heads of State and Government of the Rio Group reaffirm their support to the legitimate rights of the Argentine Republic in the sovereignty dispute with the United Kingdom about the Malvinas Question.
They remind the regional interest that the Governments of the Argentine Republic and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland resume negotiations in order to reach as soon as possible a fair, peaceful and lasting solution to the sovereignty dispute about the Malvinas, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands and the sorrounding maritime areas, according to the relevant resolutions and declarations of the United Nations and the Organization of the American States.


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Rio Group


The Rio Group has issued statements on the Malvinas Islands Question since 1993. On the occasion of the treatment of the question by the Special Committee on Decolonisation of the United Nations and the Fourth Commission of the General Assembly of the United Nations, the representative of the country occupying the Group Secretariat that year intervened in the debates on behalf of the Rio Group.
On 10 May 2005 the Rio Group issued a declaration supporting the legitimate rights of the Argentine Republic in the sovereignty dispute and expressed its concern over the inclusion of the South Atlantic islands in Annex II to the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe of 29 October 2004. Copies of this declaration were submitted by the Argentine embassies to foreign ministries in all the European Union Member States and to European Union authorities.


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Summit of South-American Countries and Arab Countries


The Declaration of Brasilia of 10 - 11May 2005 of the Summit of South-American Countries and Arab Countries stated that the inclusion of the islands of the South Atlantic in Annex II to the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe of 29 October 2004 is incompatible with the existence of a sovereignty dispute over said islands.

 

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Ibero-American Summit


The Ibero-American Summits which bring together the heads of State and Government of the 19 Iberoamerican countries plus Spain and Portugal, have stated on several occasions, the last time in 2006 in Montevideo (Uruguay), the need for Argentina and the United Kingdom to renew, at the earliest opportunity, the negotiations to seek a rapid solution to the sovereignty dispute over the Malvinas Islands, in accordance with the resolutions of the United Nations and the Organisation of American States and the provisions and objectives of the United Nations Charter, including the principle of territorial integrity.
 

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South American Nations Community Presidents’ Summit


During the II South American Nations Community Presidents’ Summit, the 9 December 2006 in the city of Cochabamba a Declaration was approved reaffirming the support for the legitimate rights of the Argentine Republic in the sovereignty dispute regarding the Malvinas Question. Likewise, we recall emphatically both Governments to resume the negotiations in order to find as soon as possible a just, peacefully and lasting solution to sovereignty dispute over the Malvinas Islands, South Georgia Islands and South Sandwich Islands and the maritime surrounding areas in conformity with the resolutions and declarations of the General Assembly and the Special Committee on Decolonisation of the United Nations and the Organisation of American States”.

 

Secretariat of Foreign Relations, Minister of Foreign Affairs
www.cancilleria.gov.ar


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