Argentinian Ambassador Jorge Arguello

Ambassador Jorge Argüello
Ambassador of Argentine to the United Nations

Resolving the Malvinas Islands Issues


I have been asked to prepare an introductory presentation on the Malvinas sovereignty dispute question with the idea of showing from our experience and point of view what the current situation is and the alternatives we have ahead. During the last 177 years, there has been a dispute between Argentina and the United Kingdom over the sovereignty of a territory called the Malvinas, which the British call the Falkland Islands and the United Nations calls the Malvinas-Falkland Islands. This is one of the oldest territorial disputes in the modern era. As you know, the Malvinas are located in the South Atlantic, but you may not know that they are 400 km away from Argentina and 14,000 km away from the U.K.

During the 177 years of the dispute, we have had many different situations. There were periods during which there was important bilateral cooperation between Argentina and the U.K. under sovereignty formula improvements and agreements that existed in fields such as communications, cultural and trade exchanges, oil, airline flights, and fishing. The sovereignty formula, which was an interesting mechanism adopted by the U.K. and Argentina, enabled the two countries to protect each party’s position on sovereignty while bilateral negotiations on the issue were taking place in compliance with U.N. resolutions on this matter.

There was also a time, in 1982, when, as a last resort, a weak Argentine military dictatorship decided to recover the islands by force, doing exactly what the British had done a century and a half before, in 1833, when they took the islands and expelled the Argentine people and authorities. Regrettably, our longstanding tradition to seek a solution to the Malvinas question by peaceful means was interrupted. The dictatorship used force even though they were mindful of the fact that the sovereignty claim over the Malvinas unites Argentines over and above any political difference they may have; they made use of this deep conviction of the Argentine people to try to perpetuate themselves in power.

Less than one year after the war, democracy was back in Argentina. It is very important to stress that the 1982 conflict, in all its significance, introduced no changes to the legal or political nature of the controversy. So here is the first question: Is a renewed armed conflict in the South Atlantic possible because of the Malvinas question? The answer is definitely no, even though recently, because of British oil exploration in the disputed waters surrounding the islands, it was said that the U.K. was afraid of an armed attack from Argentina. Let me say that this is impossible. Our national decision is to pursue through diplomatic negotiations a solution to the sovereignty dispute—exactly what the United Nations has been requesting from both parties since 1965, when Resolution 2065 was adopted. Furthermore, Argentina is one of the Latin American countries that has exhibited one of the lowest expenditures in armaments since 1983. Although the regional average is 1.32% of the regional GDP, my country’s military expenditures are only .82% of the national GDP.


U.N. Resolution 2065 calls for an end to colonialism, recognizing the sovereignty dispute over the Malvinas Islands and mandating cooperation from both sides. The U.N. has also taken the view that the population transplanted by the colonial power is not a people with a right to free determination. Argentina and the U.K. formally accepted Resolution 2065 to negotiate a solution. Both parties recognized the existence of the sovereignty dispute and held conversations on sovereignty after 1965.
During all of these years of bilateral negotiations, many solutions were designed and some agreements were drafted. However, they failed to yield the results that were expected. Since 1965, year after year, even in the year of the war, the U.N. General Assembly and a special committee on decolonization have been expressing themselves in a similar fashion, urging both parties to resume bilateral negotiations to find a just, fair, and lasting solution to the sovereignty dispute over the Malvinas Islands.
Ruling out the military option and burying the ax, we have only one alternative: Diplomatic negotiation. But reality points out that the main obstacle to a solution to this sovereignty dispute is the lack of political will on one side. Recently, when Mr. Ilan Halevi talked about the Middle East conflict, he said that you cannot marry alone; you need a partner. In Argentina, we express the same idea by saying that it takes two to tango. We need political will on both sides. We need to go step by step to generate political conditions that are appropriate to gain momentum toward a new consensus.

Instead of being afraid of wars that are not going to take place, we should all be trying to get answers to some new questions being raised in our region and in other regions: When is it possible in the current world to ignore the U.N.’s definitions? What is the trend? Are we facing the exhaustion of the world’s multilateral possibility or are we on the eve of its reemergence? In the South Atlantic, facts point to an answer: Neither the U.N. General Assembly resolutions nor the good-offices mission entrusted to the Secretary General have been successful in solving the Malvinas question. We have not gained a simple centimeter in all of these decades.


The title of this panel is “Global Security from a Latin American Perspective.” So from a Latin American perspective, I remind you that not long ago the heads of state and government of the 32 Latin American and Caribbean countries jointly demanded full compliance with the U.N. resolutions on the Malvinas question. I recall what was established by Resolution 31/49 of the United Nations General Assembly, which says, and I quote: “Calls upon the two parties to refrain from making decisions that will imply introducing unilateral modifications in the situations while the islands are going through the process recommended by the General Assembly.” At that meeting, in the city of Cancun, Mexico, President Lula of Brazil posed an interesting question, and again I quote: “What is the geographic, political, or economic explanation for the U.K. to be in the Malvinas? Could it only be because it is a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, where they can do everything and others nothing?”

From our point of view, in some issues there is a clear double standard for those few U.N. member-states that have a permanent seat on the Security Council. Some of those who have more power continue to use this power, this place of privilege, to shield their interest, violating the U.N. resolutions. I am convinced that the lack of political will to negotiate responds to power and is founded on the existing relationship of power between the U.K. and its supporters on the one hand and between Argentina and its supporters, including the Latin American countries, on the other hand.

We should question ourselves: Are some of the most powerful countries turning a deaf ear to the demands of the international community? Is the very existence of the multilateral system that has ruled the world since the Second World War being undermined? Is the intransigent attitude of some of the most powerful countries responsible for the lack of progress? Facing or trying to face this situation, the Argentine Congress created the Parliamentary Observatory of the Malvinas question. It is an attempt to open a path of dialogue that could be traveled when necessary; it is a tool to be ready for use when political conditions embrace it.

The Parliamentary Congress became a permanent body sanctioned by law, with members from both the government and the opposition parties. Three years ago, our Congress invited the British Parliamentarians from both houses to hold meetings with our Observatory in Buenos Aires. In response, we accepted a similar invitation from the British Parliament. These meetings appear to have been proposed in the light of cooperation and trust-building measures.


Since you may have all read about the situation we are going through in the South Atlantic, I am not going to talk a lot more about it. We hope that the situation will be resolved soon, but I would like to raise a question here: Could the discovery of oil reserves in the South Atlantic and problems surrounding the British exploration exacerbate cooperation and trust-building issues even more? We currently are working fervently toward a solution to the problem, and it is our understanding that, when political conditions are appropriate, reciprocal ties of knowledge and trust will be bound even closer. Argentina’s desire is to honor U.N. Resolution 2065. However, over the years we have realized that we cannot do it alone. It takes two to tango.

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