Argentina’s Foreign Minister, Hector Timerman, accused Britain of deploying a submarine large enough to carry nuclear weapons in the South Atlantic at the recent nuclear summit meeting in Seoul, South Korea. “These are unfounded, baseless insinuations,” said Nick Clegg the UK’s Deputy Prime Minister, according to The Huffington Post.
The contention between Argentina and Britain dates back to the 1982 war between the two countries over the sovereignty of the Falklands, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands in the south Atlantic which lie east of Argentina and are geographically closer to that country than the United Kingdom. A total of 907 casualties were reported in the war which lasted 74 days. 649 casualties listed from Argentina and 255 British Servicemen and 3 Falkland Island civilians were listed from the UK casualty list.
The ownership of the Islands has been a contentious issue since the 18th century. Although the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 confirmed Spain’s control of South American territories, including the Falklands, with ownership then being transferred to Argentina; In 1833 the United Kingdom officially claimed and has retained ownership of the Islands since then.
In recent years the water around the Falklands has brought the issue of sovereignty back into the headlines. Oil was discovered off the Falklands in May 2010. There are 4 main players in the oil exploration off the Islands according to The Telegraph: Desire Petroleum, Rockhopper, Falkland Oil and Gas and Borders and Southern all based in the UK.
The country’s foreign minister Hector Timerman said it would pursue legal action against firms exploring for oil around the islands and any other companies who do business with them.
There are some who believe that the Falklands should be owned by Argentina. In February 2012 Peruvian President Ollanta Humala expressed his support on behalf of the Peruvian people and government, for the “legitimate rights of Argentina’s sovereignty,” according to Peru This Week.
Prince William completed military duty on the Islands towards the end of March this year and the British Navy sent its largest warship to the area, which increased Argentina’s interest in the Islands, as well as increasing tensions between the two nations, and reopened old colonial wounds.
The population of the Falkland Islands was estimated to be 3,140 by a CIA report in May 2008, with English being the predominate Language and 67.2% of the population being Christian.
According to the Falkland Island Census Statistics of 2006, approximately 70% of the population is of British descent, due to Scottish and Welsh immigration to the islands. A few Islanders are of French, Gibraltarian ancestry. Some Scandinavians settled in the area due to Norwegian whalers operating off the shores. There is also a small minority of South American, mainly Chileans. Recently many people from Saint Helena came to find work and there are a few Argentine residents.
It is important to note here that there were no indigenous people historically located on the Islands when the English arrived in the 17th century, although it is believed that Patagonian Indians could have visited using canoes. (See page 8 of the 2006 Census to get a full breakdown of population by country of birth)
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