AP Interview: Falkland gov. seeks lower tensions

AP News
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Posted: Apr 04, 2012 2:33 PM
AP Interview: Falkland gov. seeks lower tensions

The British governor of the Falkland Islands says he hopes Argentina may ease tensions in its dispute with Britain over the archipelago.

Gov. Nigel Haywood told The Associated Press in an interview on Tuesday that restrictions on trade imposed by Argentina are complicating shipments of food and other provisions. But he said the islands are able to fly in supplies and still have access to Brazil by ship.

"I'm still disappointed that the tone we get is one of aggression, really, towards the Falkland Islands and to the people of the Falkland Islands," Haywood said in the interview at his office. "We've done nothing to take things, to escalate the situation at all. I mean, this has largely been Argentina raising and raising the temperature by first of all a number of statements and secondly a number of actions."

Tensions have grown as both nations this week marked the 30th anniversary of Argentina's invasion of the islands, which Argentines say Britain has long illegally occupied.

Argentina has increasingly sought to isolate the South Atlantic islands by barring trade, ships and planes from adjacent Argentine territory and waters. That has led to shortages of some types of produce, such as bananas, in island stores.

Islanders say the scarcer shipments arriving in Port Stanley have also pushed up prices of some products, and some residents have turned to relying on their own vegetable gardens instead.

"We're just trying to get on with life down here really, and from a diplomatic viewpoint we're trying to do everything we can to enable us to get on with life," Haywood said. "I very much hope that Argentina will decide itself that it's time to de-escalate things and actually move towards a rather more normal relationship between Argentina and the islands."

Britain, which has controlled the Falklands since 1833, sent forces to the islanders' defense when Argentine forces invaded on April 2, 1982. The 74-day war ended when British troops routed the Argentines. In all, 255 British soldiers, 649 Argentines and three islanders were killed.

Argentina's claim to the islands, which are known in Latin America as the Islas Malvinas, has widespread support across the region, and President Cristina Fernandez's government has recently stepped up both diplomatic and economic pressure.

Argentina also received moral backing last week from a group of Nobel Peace Prize winners who scolded Britain for ignoring U.N. resolutions urging talks on the islands.

As for the trade restriction imposed by Argentina, Haywood said they "do make some difficulties, because obviously there's a sort of limitation to the amount of food and ... provisions and so on that come through."

"But that said, the air link still works perfectly well. We can still have access to Punta Arenas (Chile) and access to Montevideo (Uruguay), access to Brazil by ship. So we get along OK," Haywood said.

While Argentina considers the islands an illegal British colony, the British government says the Falklands have long been a self-governing British territory. Haywood, as Britain's representative in Stanley, still has veto power over the Falkland Islands government.

Haywood encouraged people to visit the Falklands, where islanders overwhelmingly say they want to remain British.

"My message to the world is: Come and look at us. Don't just listen to what Argentina tells you. Come and see for yourself," he said.