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Gordon Brown says Britain is prepared to protect Falkland Islands as row with Argentina escalates



By Daily Mail Reporter

Last updated at 6:31 PM on 18th February 2010





Tough talk: Argentina president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has announced a decree on shipping


Britain has made 'all the preparations necessary' to protect the Falkland Islands, Gordon Brown said today.

His reassurance comes amid Argentinian efforts to control shipping in the region.

The Argentinian government has issued a decree that tightens control over shipping in the area ahead of British efforts to start oil and gas exploration off the islands' waters.

Mr Brown said he did not expect a need to send a task force to the area, saying: 'This is oil drilling that is exploration for the future.


'It is perfectly within our rights to do this.'

He believed the Argentinian government understood this and that 'sensible discussions' will prevail.

The Ministry of Defence has denied reports that a naval taskforce is on its way to the Falklands.

A spokesman said it was 'maintaining' British force levels in and around the Falkland Islands, adding it was 'just business as usual'.


The Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague this morning said Britain should be 'very firm' and raise its profile off the islands.






Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Mr Hague called for 'some sort of increased naval presence - it may just be one more ship visiting more regularly' in the region.




RAF Typhoons and a Tornado F3 over the Falkland Islands last September (file)





Displacement: 5,200 tonnes

Length: 462ft

Width: 50ft

Speed: 30 knots

Number of crew: 287 (Max.312)

Armament: Twin Sea Dart Missile launcher; 4.5in Mk 8 gun; 2 x 20mm close range guns; 2 x Vulcan Phalanx close-in weapons system; NATO Seagnat and DLF3 Decoy Launchers; Sea Skua anti-ship missiles; Stingray anti-submarine torpedoes;Mk 11 depth charges; machine guns

Aircraft: Lynx MK 8 helicopters




He added: 'That kind of thing would show very clearly to Argentina - with whom, again, we want friendly relations - that we will be very firm about this.


'It would send a signal not to misunderstand British intentions.

'One of the things that went wrong in the 1980s is that the Argentines thought we weren't really committed to the Falkland Islands. So, we mustn't make that mistake again. Our commitment should be very clear.'

However, Buenos Aires insisted it did did not mean a repeat of the 1982 Falklands war.

The South American country has said it will take its dispute over plans by UK firms to explore oil off the islands to the United Nations.


It has announced new controls on ships heading to the islands as a result of the plans to drill for oil.

Two days ago, the Argentina president President Cristina Fernandez Kirchner signed a decree which meant that boats sailing from its ports to the Falklands would need a government permit.



Prime Minister Gordon Brown walks past an Apache helicopter during a visit to Wattisham Airfield in Suffolk today



HMS York, which is patrolling waters off Port Stanley. The Ministry of Defence has denied reports that it was sent there as a deterrent to Argentina


This comes as a British rig is set to arrive in the waters off the islands tomorrow. It is due to start drilling next week.

Desire Petroleum, which owns Ocean Guardian, said the move by Buenos Aires would not affect its drilling programme.

'This whole situation has unfortunately been anticipated for months,' a Desire spokesman said. 'Desire's logistics are unaffected.'








Destroyer HMS York

Patrol vessel HMS Clyde

Survey ship HMS Scott

Royal Auxilliary ship RFA

Wave Ruler



1,076 service personnel from all three forces

Resident infantry company is 1 YORKS



4 Eurofighter Typhoons

Vickers VC-10 refuelling plane


2 Sea King helicopters






17,200 sailors

23 ships



41,400 troops

1,920 battle vehicles and 600 tanks



13,200 airmen and women

244 aircraft (includes planes and helicopters)




Argentina is to take the dispute to the UN next week when Foreign Minister Jorge Taiana will meet Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

The Foreign Office said it was watching the situation 'closely' but insisting that the seas around the Falklands were controlled by island authorities.

'We have no doubt about our sovereignty over the Falkland Islands and we're clear that the Falkland Islands government is entitled to develop a hydrocarbons industry within its waters,' junior minister Chris Bryant.

'The Falkland Islands territorial waters are controlled by the Islands' authorities. We remain focused on supporting the Falkland Islands government in developing legitimate business in its territory.'

A Royal Navy warship is today patrolling waters off the islands' capital Port Stanley as a result of the dispute.

The Ministry of Defence denied reports that the Type 42 destroyer HMS York was sent to the region as a deterrent to Argentina, which this week asserted its control over shipping in the region.

A MoD spokesman said: 'There has been no uplift of forces in response to this or any other row. We have had no instructions to prepare anything - it's just business as usual.'

He added that this level of force has been in the area for 'years'.

The patrol vessel HMS Clyde is stationed there permanently with all the other ships rotated on a routine basis.

The Sun today reported that survey vessel HMS Scott and oil supply tanker RFA Wave Ruler were en route to the islands but the MoD said the vessels were simply being sent to relieve others which was 'completely routine'.

The MoD spokesman added: 'The Government is fully committed to the South Atlantic Overseas Territories which include the Falkland Islands.


Enlarge article-1251901-0859EA9D000005DC-251_468x392.jpg

Argentina submitted a territorial claim to the UN last year based on research into the continental shelf, the area marked in red. The Falklands Maritime Zone was designated by Britain after the 1982 war





On April 7, 1982 - five days after Argentina invaded the islands - the British government imposed a 200-mile Maritime Exclusion Zone around the Falkands. Britain formally declared an end to hostilities on June 20, 1982 and reduced the scope of the zone to 150 miles.

However, last year Argentina submitted a claim to the United Nations for a vast expanse of ocean that overlaps the Falklands and Britain's exclusion zone.

The Argentinians are claiming rights over the area based on research into the extent of the continental shelf, stretching to the Antarctic and including the Falklands.

The history of the Falklands is complex. The British had a small settlement there from 1766. When it was abandoned in 1774, the territory became part of Argentina. Then, in 1883, the British seized the islands by force.

The Argentinians briefly recaptured the islands during the 1982 war, but Britain reclaimed them after just 74 days.

Despite this, Argentina has always maintained sovereignty over the islands, which it calls Islas Malvinas.

It has previously threatened that any company exploring for oil and gas in the waters around the territory will not be allowed to operate in Argentina.





'A deterrence force is maintained on the Islands.


'That deterrence force comprises a wide range of land, air and maritime assets which collectively maintain our defence posture.

'We have a permanent presence in the South Atlantic including one frigate/destroyer, a patrol vessel, a survey ship and a replenishment vessel.


'We also have 1,076 service personnel on land.'

A senior Navy source reportedly said the ship would 'discourage the Argentines from trying anything with our shipping.'

'If they do, the Navy are there to stop them.'

Angry at Britain's effort to start oil and gas exploration off the islands' waters, Argentina announced on Tuesday that all ships sailing to the islands must hold a government permit.

'Any boat that wants to travel between ports on the Argentine mainland to the Islas Malvinas, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands...must first ask for permission,' Cabinet chief Anibal Fernandez said.

The announcement means Argentina will be able to control all traffic from South America towards the islands, including vessels carrying drilling equipment and an oil rig due to begin exploration by early next year.

Britain sought to 'unilaterally and illegitimately exploit natural reserves that belong to Argentina, and Argentina will take adequate measures to defend its interests and its rights,' said Deputy Foreign Minister Victorio Taccetti.

Several British companies are poised to begin exploration using an offshore rig, while Desire Petroleum has licensed six areas where it predicts 3.5billion barrels of oil and nine trillion cubic feet of natural gas can be recovered.



Enlarge article-1251901-085526D5000005DC-169_468x335.jpg

Fuel wars: The contracts to drill for oil around the Islands have been awarded. This map, published by Falkland Oil and Gas Ltd, shows the areas secured by each company


President Pushy: Why 'Queen Cristina' believes in the Malvinas, Eva Perón, and that pork is better than Viagra



article-1251901-08556F54000005DC-468_223x169.jpg She's been termed Argentina's Hillary Clinton - but President Cristina Kirchner won't be admitting to any crushes on David Miliband anytime soon.

Instead, she is seen in Argentina as more of an Eva Perón figure.

Although she repeatedly rejected the comparison later, Mrs Kirchner once said in an interview that she identified herself 'with the Evita of the hair in a bun and the clenched fist before a microphone'.




When her husband Nestor Kirchner was president from 2003-2007, she became an itinerant ambassador for his government.


article-1251901-0274FD0C000004B0-88_223x159.jpg Her highly combative speech style polarised Argentine politics, invoking the power of the Peróns - and American firebrands like Sarah Palin.

She began her own four-year presidential term in December 2007, quickly earning the nickname 'Queen Cristina' for her imperial manner.

Mrs Kirchner has gone on to make several gaffes including famously recommending pork as an alternative to Viagra.

She also had to go on record confirming she was a 'mortal' after telling a press conference that if she was a 'genius' she 'would have made several (people) disappear as the (lamp) genie'.

Why she and her government are pushing the Falklands conflict now is not entirely clear.

Sovereignty over the Falklands is written in to the Argentine Constitution.

In 2009, a tearful Mrs Kirchner swore: 'One day in this century, an Argentine president will be able to visit the Malvinas' to honour the country's dead there.




As the issue escalated, Sir Nicholas Winterton, the chairman of the all-party Falklands group, said he would seek a meeting with senior officials at the Foreign Office when Parliament returned from recess next week.

He dismissed Ms Fernandez's decree as 'pathetic and useless' as Argentina had no jurisdiction over the seas around the Falklands.

And he stressed that both the Government and Conservative opposition remain committed to British sovereignty over the islands and the principle of self-determination for their inhabitants.

'The Argentinians are again indulging in hostile behaviour - albeit at this stage only in words - against a friendly neighbour, the Falklands,' said Sir Nicholas.

'I believe they are doing so for internal purposes and that it will not affect the Falkland Islands at all.

'All they are trying to do is impede the economic progress of the Falkland Islands, because of course the encouragement of hydrocarbon exploration in the area is an important part of achieving a sustainable future for the islands.

'I don't think one wants to exacerbate what is already a difficult situation, but clearly it is important that the Foreign Office indicates that they believe that this decree has no jurisdiction over international waters.'

The Foreign Office said the Britain was ready to co-operate with Argentina on South Atlantic issues and was working to develop relations between the two countries.

'Argentina and the UK are important partners,' said the Foreign Office spokesman.

'We have a close and productive relationship on a range of bilateral and multilateral issues, including the global economic situation (particularly in the G20), human rights, climate change, sustainable development and counter-proliferation.

And we want, and have offered, to co-operate on South Atlantic issues. We will work to develop this relationship further.'

The South American country still claims sovereignty over the archipelago nearly three decades after the end of the Falklands War in which more than 1,000 people died.

Simmering tensions boiled over earlier this month when Britain announced plans to begin offshore exploration drilling near the remote islands.

Geologists estimate there are up to 60 billions of barrels of oil in the seabed near the Falklands and a British company, Desire Petroleum, is due to begin drilling 100 miles north of the islands before the end of the month.

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