SOUTH American nations backed Argentina’s claim to oil near the Falkland Islands at the weekend, arguing that British firms are hunting for fuel in the region “unilaterally”.
Argentina said last week it would take civil and criminal action against any companies involved in oil exploration off the islands, known as the Malvinas in South America.
Four Aim-listed companies are actively exploring for oil in the area, and the British government has said it will defend their rights to drill.
Foreign ministers of the UNASUR grouping of South American nations said in a joint statement late on Saturday: “The military presence of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland in the Islas Malvinas ... goes against the region’s policy to seek a peaceful solution to the sovereignty dispute, and [the region] reiterates its rejection of that presence.
“It also rejects unilateral British activities in the disputed zone, which include, among other things, the exploration and exploitation of renewable and non-renewable Argentine natural resources as well as military exercises.”
British Rear-Admiral Sir John Forster Woodward, who gave the order to sink the General Belgrano during the 1982 war, warned yesterday that recent cuts to the British armed forces mean a military operation to defend the islands is unlikely.
“We could not retake the Falklands. We could not send a task force or even an aircraft carrier. If we had been in this state in 1982, the Falklands would be the Malvinas. We rely on sending reinforcements by air, but that would be impossible if we lost control of the airfield at Mount Pleasant,” he told the Sunday Telegraph.