Monday, August 26, 2013

Argentina Bars British Firms Over Falklands Oil Exploration

While Britain and Spain continue their diplomatic brouhaha over Gibraltar, the government of Argentina took actions last week regarding their sovereignty claim on the Falkland Islands.

The Argentine government barred four British companies (Borders & Southern Petroleum, Desire Petroleum, Argos Resources and Falkland Oil and Gas) from operating in the South American country since the firms have been drilling for oil near the disputed Falklands.

According to a statement issued on Friday, the twenty-year penalty against the four companies came about since they were operating under an “illegitimate license to explore for oil and gas in areas near the Malvinas that was granted by the illegitimate government that controls those islands.” (The Malvinas is the name given to the Falklands by Argentina).

The statement also said that companies were notified of their situation in March 2012 and were warned at the time that the Argentine officials would take all legal and administrative action at its disposal to “defend its rights.”

Meanwhile, the British Home Office blasted Argentina’s decision and rejected their accusations against the four oil companies.

“Hydrocarbon exploration in the Falklands is a legitimate commercial venture, and the British Government strongly supports the right of the Falkland Islanders to develop their own natural resources for their own economic benefit,” according to a Home Office spokesperson.  “Argentina’s efforts to intimidate the Falklands are illegal, irresponsible and wholly counterproductive.”

None of the four firms reportedly had business interests in Argentina prior to last week’s actions.  Furthermore, the price of shares for two British oil companies not included in the Argentine ban (Rockhopper Exploration and Premier Oil) fell after both firms decided to significantly delay their offshore oil drilling plans near the Falklands.

As we mentioned in April 2012, the recent discovery of offshore oilfields near the Falklands have added to tensions between Argentina and Britain over the islands.  While Argentina viewed increased oil exploration as an “illegal” threat to the country’s sovereignty, some British residents of the Falklands were hopeful that a possible oil boom could help improve the area’s economy.

The decades-long dispute over the archipelago, which is located about 300 miles from the Argentine coast, included the 1982 Falklands War.  Under President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, Argentina has reaffirmed its claim over the islands and has called on negotiating with Britain.  The British government has refused any possibility of bilateral talks and cited the results of a March non-binding referendum where 98% of Falklands voters backed remaining under British rule.

The Falklands and Gibraltar disputes could lead to a diplomatic alliance between Argentina and Spain.  According to a recent Spanish press report, the country’s foreign minister will visit Buenos Aires next month and bring up possibly creating a “joint diplomatic offensive” for their respective sovereignty claims.

Video Source– YouTube via user telesurenglish (“The Government of Argentina expressed (in June) its full willingness to find a peaceful solution to the sovereignty dispute over the Falkland Islands. During his intervention at the UN's Special Committee on Decolonization Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman rejected oil exploration being undertaken by the UK government in the archipelago”).

Online Sources – The Guardian; Sydney Morning Herald; LAHT; The Telegraph; The Latin Americanist

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