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With no leg to stand on, UK shuns Malvinas talks: China Daily editorial

chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2024-02-21 20:25
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A sign is pictured as British flags flutter at Parliament Square in London, Britain. [Photo/Agencies]

United Kingdom Foreign Secretary David Cameron's visit to the Malvinas Islands on Monday has once again brought to the fore the nearly two-century-long sovereignty dispute over the South Atlantic archipelago between the UK and Argentina.

The two countries fought a brief war in 1982 over the islands which the UK won, and since then Argentina has sought to resume talks on the islands' sovereignty, only for its overtures to be rejected by the UK.

Thus the move by Cameron, especially the statement he made that the UK would "help protect and defend" the islands for as long as they want to be "part of the UK family", is tantamount to rubbing salt in the wounds of Argentina's painful past. Gustavo Melella, governor of Argentina's Tierra del Fuego, Antarctica and Southern Atlantic Islands province, called Cameron's presence "a new British provocation that seeks to ... sustain colonialism in the 21st century".

Yet apart from that, the overall response from Buenos Aires to Cameron's controversial visit has generally been subdued, with Argentinian Foreign Minister Diana Mondino only making a tongue-in-cheek jibe by thanking his UK counterpart for "including Argentina in his visit to the region". Argentinian President Javier Milei, who took office in November, has so far made no comment on Cameron's visit.

It is not that the main point of contention between the two countries has slipped out of his mind. Just last month during a "warm and cordial" meeting on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Milei and Cameron touched upon the issue and said they would "agree to disagree and do so politely". Only that Cameron's high-profile move a month later has nothing to do with "politeness" as far as many Argentinian people are concerned.

Yet Milei has too many irons in the fire to make the dispute a priority at the moment, as he is seeking to lift the country out of the economic quagmire it has got itself into. Argentina's annual inflation rate has reached a three-decade high of more than 250 percent, even though the month-on-month pace slowed slightly after he took office. Poverty levels skyrocketed to 57.4 percent of Argentina's 46 million people in January, the highest rate in 20 years. The International Monetary Fund predicts the country's economy will contract by 2.8 percent this year, following a 1.1 percent decline in 2023. Faced with so many pressing economic problems, Milei has no choice but to put the Malvinas Islands on the back burner.

Nonetheless, the dispute surrounding the Malvinas Islands is essentially a legacy of colonialism. The UK should respond to Argentina's request for negotiations as soon as possible with a view to finding a peaceful, just and lasting solution in accordance with relevant United Nations resolutions.

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