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MPs clash with Argentine minister after ‘Falklands will be ours’ claim

The Argentine foreign minister was today involved in heated exchanges with MPs after he insisted the Falkland Islanders had no right to self-determination.

Appearing at a meeting of the all-party group on Argentina at Westminster, Hector Timerman insisted he wanted to open a dialogue with Britain.

But there was anger when he made clear that Buenos Aires would not recognise the result of a referendum of the islanders next month on whether they wished to remain part of the British Overseas Territories.

Earlier, he used a newspaper interview to claim that the islands would be under Argentine control within 20 years, while denouncing the British as “fanatics”.

The Falklands Islands parliament last nigh wrote to Mr Timerman warning “no amount of harassment and intimidation” would change their minds that they did not want to be ruled from Buenos Aires.

Mr Timerman, making his first visit to Britain as foreign minister, had previously rejected a meeting with Foreign Secretary William Hague after the Foreign Office insisted the islanders representatives must be present.

Appearing in a packed Commons committee room, Mr Timerman sought to assure MPs and peers that he wanted to start a dialogue with the UK “as soon as possible”.

However he ran into trouble when he insisted that the dispute over the Falklands was a matter for the two governments, and that there was no place for a referendum.

“I am willing to listen to Mr Hague - anything he wants to tell me about the subjects he happens to represent,” he said.

“The self-determination referendum doesn’t apply to the Malvinas. It is not a colonised people, it is a colonised territory.

“According to the United Nations, the people living in the Malvinas is not a native population. They are people who came after an invasion of the territory.

“It is not a matter for negotiation. Not one single country in the world recognises the sovereignty of the United Kingdom in the Malvinas.

“We have to respect the interests of the people living in the area but not the wishes.”

He compared Britain’s approach to the islands to Israeli settlement building in the occupied West Bank.

“It is strange you behave one way in the Malvinas and complain about the settlements,” he said.

However a series of MPs intervened, to warn that as far as the UK was concerned, the wishes of the islanders had to be respected.

Commons deputy speaker Lindsay Hoyle said the islands were not “for Britain to give or for Argentina to take”.

“Just listen to the people who live there. Allow their voices to be heard,” he said.

Labour MP Derek Twigg, the chairman of the all-party group on the Falklands, made clear there could be no compromise on the issue of self-determination.

“As far as we are concerned, there can be no negotiation on the issue of self-determination,” he said.

Earlier, in an interview with The Guardian and The Independent, Mr Timerman ruled out a military solution to the dispute but predicted that Buenos Aires would control the islands within two decades.

“I don’t think it will take another 20 years. I think that the world is going through a process of understanding more and more that this is a colonial issue, an issue of colonialism, and that the people living there were transferred to the islands,” he said.

“We have been trying to find a peaceful solution for 180 years. I think the fanatics are not in Buenos Aires (but) maybe in the United Kingdom because they are 14,000km (8,700 miles) away from the islands.”

Members of the Falklands Islands parliament tonight wrote to Mr Timerman expressing their disappointment at his refusal to meet them.

Legislative Assembly member Dick Sawle said they were determined to maintain their right to determine their own political future.

“Please understand that no amount of harassment and intimidation by your Government against our island community will change this fact,” he wrote.

“Indeed, the more you press us, the harder will be our resolve. It is not tenable for you to ignore us.”

 

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