The Falklands back in the news

Agentina has decided to "talk tough" according to the Times in its quest for the Falkland Islands. The British government refuses to compromise. While nothing much has changed, it does put the Islands back in the news in the run-up to the 25th anniversary of the Argentinian invasion and its subsequent defeat.

While condemnation of the Argentinian invasion was pretty much unanimous - the vote in UN was overwhelming, and in the US Senate only Jesse Helms voted against - subsequent refusals by the British government to negotiate have drawn condemnation. The Argentinian calls for negotiation may seem transparent: "we failed to take them. Now you give them to us anyway," but refusing to negotiate always looks bad. It makes you seem unreasonable.

And it is so unnecessary. There is a course of action the British government could take tomorrow - could have taken any time in the past 24 years - which would put the burden of obstinacy back where it belongs, on Argentinian shoulders.

Britain's current position is that it cannot negotiate on sovereignty without the permission of Islanders. Blair should subtly change that and say, while we cannot negotiate away the democratic rights of the Islanders, because we do not own them, we have no objection to Argentina pursuing negotiations with the elected government of the Islands.

The thing is, Argentina can't do that. Argentina cannot recognise that the inhabitants of the Falklands have any democratic rights at all, or its whole claim crumbles to dust. Argentina has always insisted it is inconceivable that the Falklands should be able to vote on whether they want to be British or Argentinian. This is essential to their position, as support for the status quo - a self-governing British protectorate - is completely overwhelming.

Argentina wants to push its claim against Britain's on grounds of proximity. It cannot push its claim against the Islanders themselves on those or any other grounds. Given the chance to negotiate with the Islanders, Argentina would refuse. And then they would look unreasonable.

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