Argentina should “take careful note” of the Falkland Islands’ overwhelming “Yes” vote in favour of remaining British, Prime Minister David Cameron said on Tuesday.
The results of the referendum, which was organised in response to Argentina’s repeated claims on the islands it calls Las Malvinas, showed that 99.8 per cent of the islanders wanted to remain a British Overseas Territory.
“They should take careful note of this result,” said Mr. Cameron. “The Falkland islanders couldn’t have spoken more clearly. They want to remain British and that view should be respected by everybody, including by Argentina.” Britain would always defend the islands, he added.
The voting was “free and fair”, according to Brad Smith, head of an international observer mission. Turnout was 92 per cent, with only three people voting “No”.
Buenos Aires rejected the vote and maintained that negotiations over the islands’ status should be held bilaterally, between Argentina and Britain, to the exclusion of the islanders, whom it calls occupiers.
The Falkland Islanders, who number just 2,563, warmly welcomed the results.
“Obviously, it is a major principle of the United Nations that a people have their right to self-determination, and you don’t get a much clearer expression of the people’s self-determination than such a large turnout and such a large ‘yes’ vote,” said the Islands’ Governor Nigel Haywood.
“My family has been here since 1842 and that is longer than most Argentines have been in Argentina,” said another resident, Lynda Buckland.
Britain and Argentina fought a bloody war over the islands in 1982, and they have remained a bone of contention ever since, with tensions recently resurfacing.
On the 30th anniversary of the conflict last year, Argentinean President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner pressed the issue at the United Nations. This year, she wrote an open letter to Mr. Cameron, accusing London of “colonialism.” Argentinean journalist Celina Andreassi said the referendum would make little difference to either side in the dispute.
“The issue for most people here is that whether the territory is Argentine or British, not the people themselves,” she said. “Both sides are going to remain really strong in their position and we are probably going to continue where we are for a long, long time.”