Tensions flare over Falkland Islands

Argentine activists demonstrate in front of the British embassy in Buenos Aires on January 20, 2012.

Story highlights

  • President Fernandez says the British are "preying" on Argentina's natural resources
  • Prime Minister Cameron says Argentina's position "is actually far more like colonialism"
  • His comments have roiled Argentinian politicians and protesters
  • Prince William is scheduled to begin a Royal Air Force tour of duty there next month

It's been nearly 30 years since British and Argentinian troops fought over the Falkland Islands, but politicians from both countries are ratcheting up their rhetoric over the British-controlled territory.

The ideological battle comes as Prince William is scheduled to begin a Royal Air Force tour of duty there next month -- a move which has drawn more attention to the islands at a time when Argentinian officials are increasingly criticizing the British presence in the area.

"They are preying on our natural resources, our oil, our fish," Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner said Wednesday.

British Prime Minister David Cameron has offered a different take, criticizing Argentinian officials for their renewed claims to the island.

"We support the Falklands' right to self determination, and what the Argentinians have been saying recently I would argue is actually far more like colonialism, because these people want to remain British, and the Argentinians want them to do something else," he told lawmakers last week.

The islands have been under British rule since 1833.

Argentina invaded the Falklands in 1982, prompting a war in which more than 600 Argentinian and 255 British troops died. After the war, the United Kingdom retained control of the islands, which are off Argentina's coast in the South Atlantic.

About 2,500 residents live on the islands, in addition to 1,700 people stationed at the British military's Mount Pleasant Complex there, according to the islands' government website.

Fernandez has recently emphasized her country's claim to the territory, saying she wants British officials to enter into talks with Argentina over the islands, which are known as the Malvinas in Argentina.

Cameron's comments about colonialism have roiled Argentinian politicians and protesters alike.

Demonstrators marching outside the British Embassy in Buenos Aires this month burned British flags and urged Argentina to sever ties with the United Kingdom.

The foreign relations committee of Argentina's Senate is scheduled to hold a meeting Thursday to draft a resolution condemning Cameron's remarks, the state-run Telam news agency reported.

Fernandez has won over several neighboring countries.

Last month, members of the Mercosur trade bloc -- which includes Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay -- said they would stop ships bearing the Falkland Islands flag from entering their ports.

That move angered British officials.

"It is unacceptable to engage in an economic blockade of the Falklands. Mercosur should take the responsible decision and not do this," UK Foreign Office Minister Jeremy Browne said.

Fernandez thanked Argentina's allies for their support.

"The Malvinas are not an Argentine cause, but a global cause," she said.

Prince William will be one of four Royal Air Force pilots to be sent to the Falkland Islands military base next month, the British Ministry of Defence said in November.

The Duke of Cambridge, who is qualified as a search and rescue pilot, has been flying Sea King helicopters for the Royal Air Force from a base in Anglesey, Wales.