What is the history of the Falklands Islands?

The war of 1982 did not settle the dispute, and the Argentine claim persists: no conceivable Argentine government will ever renounce it. Since 1982 Argentine governments have oscillated in their policy towards the islands, from a “charm offensive” towards the islanders and collaboration over fisheries and other matters under President Menem and Foreign Minister Guido di Tella, to a harder line under the present government of Cristina Kirchner. Her government has ended previous cooperation, has protested the current oil exploration and threatens some bureaucratic harrassment of shipping in the region, but has renounced any show of force in favour of a diplomatic offensive. She has had some success in the recent meeting of Latin American and Caribbean heads of state in Mexico, where they all supported the Argentine sovereignty claim. This contrasts with 1982, when a number of them, notably Chile, Brazil and Colombia, clearly opposed the Argentine recourse to force. It means that Great Britain will have a somewhat harder time in the UN, where the annual exchange in the decolonization committee has hitherto been something of a ritual.

What is the current Argentine policy towards the Falkland Islands?

The war of 1982 did not settle the dispute, and the Argentine claim persists: no conceivable Argentine government will ever renounce it. Since 1982 Argentine governments have oscillated in their policy towards the islands, from a “charm offensive” towards the islanders and collaboration over fisheries and other matters under President Menem and Foreign Minister Guido di Tella, to a harder line under the present government of Cristina Kirchner.

Her government has ended previous cooperation, has protested the current oil exploration and threatens some bureaucratic harrassment of shipping in the region, but has renounced any show of force in favour of a diplomatic offensive. She has had some success in the recent meeting of Latin American and Caribbean heads of state in Mexico, where they all supported the Argentine sovereignty claim. This contrasts with 1982, when a number of them, notably Chile, Brazil and Colombia, clearly opposed the Argentine recourse to force. It means that Great Britain will have a somewhat harder time in the UN, where the annual exchange in the decolonization committee has hitherto been something of a ritual.

Do the Argentineans want the oil as well?

Obvious enough – Argentina is bound to resent the unilateral exploitation of natural resources by the British or the islanders in what she regards as her maritime waters: Oil, a finite resource, is also a much more visceral matter than fish. The British government naturally says it has no doubts about its position in international law – no government ever admits such doubts. It has also taken discreet measures to ensure against any possible Argentine interference, and will dismiss any diplomatic cost as negligible.

Why does Britain want to retain control over the Falkland Islands?

In the aftermath of the war of 1982 no British government will risk outraging public opinion by appearing soft on the question of sovereignty – the political price of that has always been high – it was so on several occasions before 1982, and after the war of course it would be much higher for any government that would be foolhardy enough to risk it. That is the main reason. There are other ones as well: support for the principle of self-determination for the islanders, access to the Antarctic … even perhaps in some minds oil.

How much oil and gas is there?

Wait and see. Watch the share price of Desire.

Malcolm Deas is a retired tutor in history at St Anthony’s College