Britain’s Defence Ministry confirmed yesterday that Flight Lieutenant William Wales, better known as Prince William, is set for deployment to the Malvinas Islands in February 2012, a year which marks the 30th anniversary of the South Atlantic war between Britain and Argentina.
The Duke of Cambridge, the title he is now known by following his marriage to Kate Middleton in April, will be part of a four-man RAF personnel crew for six weeks.
The Defence Ministry called his deployment to the British Forces Garrison at the Mount Pleasant Complex strictly “routine.”
It is government policy for British forces to remain on the Malvinas Islands since the war in 1982 and therefore the news comes at a delicate time in terms of British-Argentine relations.
Former deputy foreign minister Andrés Cisneros told the Herald yesterday relations were “at one of their lowest points.” Cisneros, as late foreign minister Guido Di Tella’s right hand, led the “Malvinas policies” during the 1990s.
Following President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s re-election on October 23, the British government sent her a congratulatory message but added the sovereignty of the Malvinas Islands is not “negotiable.”
A spokesman for the British Foreign Ministry said: “We congratulate Cristina Kirchner on her re-election and we look forward to working together on a variety of fronts that globally affect us. We value our relationship with Argentina, but we don’t want that to dominate our bilateral talks.”
In addition, over the past two years, Argentina has never sought to replace its ambassador to London, another sign of a cold relationship between the two countries. Worse still: diplomatic sources have told the Herald that current foreign minister Héctor Timerman could be the next Ambassador in London, reopening the doors of the Argentine residence in Belgrave Square. Timerman, sources say, could further freeze current relations with the UK Foreign Office.
Meanwhile, back in September, President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner renewed Argentina’s claims at the United Nations General Assembly at her fourth such meeting over sovereignty issues regarding the islands.
The President called for negotiations, saying “once again we call on the UK to abide by UN resolutions. We will wait longer but if it does not, we will be forced to review current provisional understandings”.
Discussing the Duke of Cambridge’s deployment yesterday, which ties in with the war’s 30th anniversary, Cisneros said: “The English have their own agenda. They don’t care whether they are bothering us or not — why should they? — but they are not doing this on purpose.”
Asked his opinion as to how the Fernández de Kirchner government might react to the news, he added: “We have a government that looks for conspiracy wherever it can. But there is no conspiracy here and this isn’t a measure which has been taken to provoke Argentina. They are simply celebrating a military victory and a ratification on their policies regarding the Malvinas which we Argentines don’t like, but they don’t care that we don’t like it.
“Britain, if it wanted, could do things in a less abrasive manner but they don’t have many motives to do so because we don’t behave very graciously toward them either. And that is the reason we have a very low grade of good relations.”
Although the former deputy foreign minister doesn’t believe that Anglo-Argentine relations are at an all-time low, he said “they are at one of their lowest points. We haven’t had an ambassador since Fernando Mirré, which is three years ago. Relations are very cold, and with regard to the Malvinas issue, they are at one of the coldest levels in memory.”
Another issue that continues to add to the deterioration in ties between the two nations is petroleum. In fact, it is so poignant that Cisneros calls it “a time bomb.” British consortium Rockhopper has been exploring the North Falkland Basin since 2010, for example.
“One day they (the British) will find oil, and then we will have a very serious situation,” Cisneros said. “Given that neither country is co-operating with the other, the day that oil is discovered means the British will take it all and then we will have a very big crisis”, although he added that it would not be of military proportions.
However, Cisneros indicated that perhaps the worst was yet to come, regarding Antarctica. “The world is due to divvy up Antarctica over the next few years and both countries have interests in the same sector of land which has its base on the Malvinas. In the next few years, the Malvinas issue is going to multiply by 100 as Antarctica is discussed and that will be a monumental crisis.”
Published in the Buenos Aires Herald on November 11, 2011.
Photo by AP.