7 October 2010

Falklands - here we go again

"Staggering to war in the Falklands?" asks an article on the US Naval Institute blog.
Argentina has put into place a program of economic sanctions designed to put pressure on the people who live in the Falklands. It has abrogated a 1995 agreement with the Falklands that would have permitted collaboration in the search for oil and natural gas. The same can be said for a 1999 agreement to conserve fishing stocks in the southwest Atlantic.

A ban on charter flights crossing over Argentine airspace to the Falklands has hurt the island’s tourist business. Currently, the only direct flight from Argentina to the Falklands leaves from Rio Gallegos on the second Saturday of the month and returns on the third Saturday. Argentina permits this single monthly exception to policy on behalf of families who wish to visit the Argentine Cemetery north of Darwin, which holds the remains of 237 Argentine combatants from the ’82 war, although other private travelers are allowed to join the flight.

As of February 2010, Argentina’s Decree 256 requires authorization permits for all ships passing through Argentine waters to the Falklands. On 15 July 2010, it was reported that an Argentine navy ship operating in shared Uruguayan-Argentine waters forced a small merchant vessel linked to the Falklands to identify itself and provide all the information related to cargo and destination. Even aside from the intimidation, it remains costly and time-consuming for merchant shipping and cruise lines to obtain proper authorization from the Argentine authorities. Consequently, fewer cruise ships have been stopping in the Falklands.

An Argentine bill about to become law contemplates sanctions against international companies that operate in Argentina and either intend to participate or are involved in oil-related activities in the Falklands. In the meantime, Britain has protested to Argentina and has firmly rejected the legitimacy of Decree 256. Britain considers the decree a violation of international law and, more specifically, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The Falklands Chamber of Commerce claims that Argentina has imposed a full-fledged sea blockade on the Falklands population.
Since responsibility for the defence of the Falklands has certainly been a major bargaining chip in the current, supposedly Strategic Defence Review, and since the Tory defence review in 1981 was the major proximate cause of the 1982 war - the longer-term one being the FCO's genetic predisposition to appeasement - everything is in place for a repeat performance, only this time without the crucial support of Chile and the USA.

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