Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Falklands

The Falkland islands. Note Argentina to the northwest.

The Provinces of Argentina

The Falkland Islands (Spanish: Islas Malvinas) are an archipelago in the South Atlantic Ocean, located about 250 nautical miles (460 km; 290 mi) from the coast of mainland South America. The archipelago, consisting of East Falkland, West Falkland and 776 lesser islands, is a self-governing British Overseas Territory. The capital, Stanley, is on East Falkland.

Ever since the re-establishment of British rule in 1833, Argentina has claimed sovereignty. In pursuit of this claim, which is rejected by the islanders, Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands in 1982. This precipitated the two-month-long undeclared Falklands War between Argentina and the United Kingdom and resulted in the defeat and withdrawal of the Argentine forces. It is currently on the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.

Since the war, there has been strong economic growth in both fisheries and tourism.

The Falkland Islands took their English name from "Falkland Sound", the channel between the two main islands, which was in turn named after Anthony Cary, 5th Viscount Falkland by Captain John Strong, who landed on the islands in 1690. The Spanish name, Islas Malvinas, is derived from the French name, Îles Malouines, named by Louis Antoine de Bougainville in 1764 after the first known settlers, mariners and fishermen from the Breton port of Saint-Malo in France. The ISO designation is Falkland Islands (Malvinas) and its ISO country code is FK.

As a result of the continuing sovereignty dispute, the use of many Spanish names is considered offensive in the Falkland Islands, particularly those associated with the 1982 invasion of the Falkland Islands. General Sir Jeremy Moore would not allow the use of Islas Malvinas in the surrender document, dismissing it as a propaganda term.

to 1982Main articles: History of the Falkland Islands and Timeline of the history of the Falkland Islands
There is controversy as to who was first to discover the Falkland Islands, with competing Portuguese, Spanish and British claims in the 16th Century.[11] While it is possible that Patagonian Indians may have visited before this, the islands were uninhabited when they were discovered by Europeans.[12] The first reliable sighting is usually attributed to the Dutch explorer Sebald de Weert in 1600, who named the archipelago the Sebald Islands, a name they bore on Dutch maps into the 19th century.[13]

In 1690, Captain John Strong of the Welfare en route to Puerto Deseado was driven off course and reached the Falkland Islands instead, landing at Bold Cove.[14] Sailing between the two principal islands he called the passage "Falkland Channel" (now Falkland Sound), after Anthony Cary, 5th Viscount Falkland, who as Commissioner of the Admiralty had financed the expedition.[14] The island group takes its English name from this body of water.[14]

John Byron, by Joshua Reynolds, 1759.The French navigator and military commander Louis Antoine de Bougainville founded the first settlement on Berkeley Sound, in present-day Port Louis, East Falkland in 1764.[15] In 1765, the British captain John Byron explored and claimed Saunders Island on West Falkland, where he named the harbour Port Egmont[16] and a settlement was constructed in 1766. Unaware of the French presence he claimed the island group for King George III.[17] Spain acquired the French colony and placed the colony under a governor subordinate to the Buenos Aires colonial administration.[17] Spain attacked Port Egmont, expelling the British presence in 1770, this brought the two countries to the brink of war but war was avoided by a peace treaty and the British return to Port Egmont.[17]

In 1774, economic pressures leading up to the American Revolutionary War, forced Great Britain to withdraw from many overseas settlements.[18][19] Upon withdrawal the British left behind a plaque asserting her continued claim.[17] Spain maintained its governor until 1806 who, on his departure, left behind a plaque asserting Spanish claims. The remaining settlers were withdrawn by the United Provinces of the River Plate in 1811.[17]

In 1820, storm damage forced the privateer Heroína to take shelter in the islands.[20] Her captain David Jewett raised the flag of the United Provinces of the River Plate and read a proclamation claiming the islands.[20] This became public knowledge in Buenos Aires nearly a year later following the publication of the proclamation in the Salem Gazette.[20] After several abortive attempts, Luis Vernet established a settlement in 1828 after seeking authorisation from both British and Argentine authorities.[21]

A dispute over fishing and hunting rights resulted in a raid by the US warship USS Lexington in 1831.[22][23] Although Vernet stated that the settlement was destroyed[citation needed], the Lexington only reports destruction of arms and a powder store.[22] The Islands were declared free from all government, the seven senior members of the settlement were arrested for piracy[24] and taken to Montevideo.[23]

In November 1832, Argentina sent Commander Mestivier as an interim commander to found a penal settlement but was killed in a mutiny after 4 days.[25] The following January, British forces returned and requested the Argentine garrison leave. Don Pinedo, captain of the ARA Sarandi and senior officer present, protested but ultimately complied. Vernet's settlement continued, with the Irishman William Dickson tasked with raising the British flag for passing ships. Vernet's deputy, Matthew Brisbane, returned and was encouraged by the British to continue with the enterprise.[26][27][28][29] The settlement continued until August 1833, when the leaders were killed in the so-called Gaucho murders. Subsequently, from 1834 the islands were governed as a naval station until 1841 when the British Government decided to establish a permanent colony.

Road sign to the capital.A new harbour was built in Stanley,[30] and the islands became a strategic point for navigation around Cape Horn. A World War I naval battle, the Battle of the Falkland Islands, took place in December 1914, with a British victory over the smaller Imperial German Asiatic Fleet.[31] During World War II, Stanley served as a Royal Navy station and serviced ships which took part in the 1939 Battle of the River Plate.[32]

Sovereignty over the islands became an issue in the second half of the 20th century, when Argentina saw the creation of the United Nations as an opportunity to pursue its claim.[33] Talks between British and Argentine foreign missions took place in the 1960s but failed to come to any meaningful conclusion.[33] A major sticking point in all the negotiations was that the inhabitants preferred that the islands remain British territory.[33]

A result of these talks, was the establishment of the islands' first air link. In 1971, the Argentine state airline LADE, began a service between Comodoro Rivadavia and Stanley. A temporary strip was followed by the construction of a permanent airfield and flights between Stanley and Comodoro Rivadavia continued until 1982.[34][35][36] Further agreements gave YPF, the Argentine national oil and gas company, a monopoly over the supply of the islands' energy needs.

Falklands War and its aftermathMain article: Falklands War

British paratroopers guard Argentine prisoners of warOn 2 April 1982, Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands and other British territories in the South Atlantic (South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands). The military junta which had ruled Argentina since 1976 sought to maintain power by diverting public attention from the nation's poor economic performance and exploiting the long-standing feelings of the Argentines towards the islands.[37] Several British writers hold that the United Kingdom's reduction in military capacity in the South Atlantic also encouraged the invasion.[38][39][40]

The United Nations Security Council issued Resolution 502, calling on Argentina to withdraw forces from the Islands and for both parties to seek a diplomatic solution.[41] International reaction ranged from support for Argentina in Latin American countries (except Chile and Colombia), to opposition in the Commonwealth and Europe (apart from Spain), and eventually the United States.

The British sent an expeditionary force to retake the islands, leading to the Falklands War. After short but fierce naval and air battles, the British landed at San Carlos Water on 21 May, and a land campaign followed leading the British taking the high ground surrounding Stanley on 11 June. The Argentine forces surrendered on 14 June 1982. The war resulted in the deaths of 255 British and 649 Argentine soldiers, sailors and airmen, as well as 3 civilian Falklanders.[42]

AftermathAfter the war, the British increased their military presence on the islands, constructing RAF Mount Pleasant and increasing the military garrison. Although the United Kingdom and Argentina resumed diplomatic relations in 1992, no further negotiations on sovereignty have taken place.

Between 18,000 and 25,000 land mines remain from the 1982 war dispersed in a number of minefields around Port Stanley, Port Howard, Fox Bay and Goose Green.[43] Information is available from the EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) Operation Centre in Stanley. In 2009 mine clearance began at Surf Bay, and further clearances were took place at Sapper Hill, Goose Green and Fox Bay. Further clearance work is due to begin in 2011.

Sovereignty dispute
Although the United Nations Committee on Decolonization includes the Falkland Islands on the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories, it has been asserted the Falkland Islands have too small a population "to survive as viable, fully independent state." Both the United Kingdom and the Argentine governments claim responsibility for the islands. United Kingdom bases its claim on continuous administration of the islands since 1833 (apart from the Argentine military occupation in 1982) and the Islanders’ "right to self determination, including their right to remain British if that is their wish".The Argentine claims that it acquired the islands from Spain when they became independent in 1811 and that the United Kingdom exceeded their authority by expelling the Argentine settlers in 1833.

Before the Falklands War
Shortly after the formation of the United Nations in 1945, the Argentine asserted its right to sovereignty over the Falkland Islands. In 1947, the United Kingdom offered to submit the case to the International Court of Justice at The Hague, but the Argentine refused the offer. A unilateral application by the United Kingdom in 1955 to the Court in respect of Argentine encroachment ended in deadlock when the Argentine announced that it would not respect the decision of the court.

In the late 1960's, as part of the United Kingdom's decolonisation policy, secret discussions were held by the British and Argentine governments to identify a means by which the United Kingdom could cede the islands to the Argentine while protecting the rights and way of life of the Islanders. Details of the talks were leaked and the islanders protested against the talks having taken place. Subsequently however, economic and transport links between the Argentine and the Islands were established, but the political situation remained unchanged. In April 1982, four months after Leopoldo Galtieri became President of Argentina, Argentine military forces staged a pre-emptive occupation of the islands leading to the Falklands War.

After the Falklands War
The dispute over control of the islands has continued since the Falklands War, although diplomatic relations between Argentina and the UK were resumed in 1990. In 1994, Argentina added its claim to the islands to the Argentine constitution, stating that this claim must be pursued in a manner "respectful of the way of life of their inhabitants and according to the principles of international law" Since the war, successive Argentine governments have stated their intention to pursue their claim to the islands by peaceful means. Kirchner, campaigning for president in 2003, regarded the islands as a top priority, taking actions such as banning flights to the Falklands from Argentine airspace. In June 2003 the issue was brought before a United Nations committee, and attempts have been made to open talks with the United Kingdom to resolve the issue of the islands.

In 1998, in retaliation for the arrest in London of the former Chilean president Augusto Pinochet, the Chilean government banned flights between Punta Arenas and Port Stanley, thus isolating the islands from the rest of the world. Uruguay and Brazil refused to authorise direct flights between their territories and Port Stanley. This forced the Islands' government to enter negotiations with the Argentine government and led to Argentina authorising direct flights between its territory and Stanley, on condition that Argentine citizens be allowed on the islands.

In 2007, 25 years after the war, Argentina reasserted its claim over the Falkland Islands, asking for the UK to resume talks on sovereignty. In March 2009, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown stated in a meeting with Argentine President Cristina Fernández that there would be no talks over the future sovereignty of the Falkland Islands. As far as the governments of the UK and of the Falkland Islands are concerned, there is no issue to resolve. The Falkland Islanders themselves are almost entirely British and maintain their allegiance to the United Kingdom.

In October 2007 a British spokeswoman confirmed that Britain intended to submit a claim to the UN to extend seabed territory around the Falklands and South Georgia, in advance of the expiry of the deadline for territorial claims following Britain's ratification of the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention. This claim would enable Britain to control activities such as fishing within the zone, in areas not conflicting with the Antarctic Treaty. Argentina has indicated it will challenge any British claim to Antarctic territory and the area around the Falkland Islands and South Georgia. Argentina made a similar claim in 2009, and the United Kingdom quickly protested against these claims.

In 2009, when delegates from the Falkland Islands were invited to the World Summit on Fishing Sustainability, the Argentine delegation protested and walked out of the conference. In February 2010, the Argentine government announced that ships traversing Argentine territorial waters en route to the Falklands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands would require a permit, as part of a dispute over British oil exploration near the Falklands. The British and Falkland governments stated that Falklands-controlled waters were unaffected.

Politics and government
The islands are a British Overseas Territory which, under the 2009 Constitution, enjoys a large degree of internal self government with the United Kingdom guaranteeing good government and taking responsibility for defence and foreign affairs.

Executive authority is vested in the Queen and is exercised by the Governor on her behalf. The Governor is also responsible for the administration of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, as these islands have no native inhabitants. The governor acts on the advice of the Executive Council, composed of himself as chairman, the Chief Executive, Financial Secretary and three elected Legislative Assembly Members. The current Governor Nigel Haywood took office in October 2010.

The Legislative Assembly consists of the Chief Executive, Financial Secretary and the eight members elected for four-year terms by universal suffrage, of whom five are from Stanley and three from Camp. It is presided over by the Speaker, currently Keith Biles.

Justice is administered by a resident senior magistrate and a non-resident Chief Justice of the Islands who visits the islands at least once a year. The senior magistrate handles petty criminal cases, civil, commercial, admiralty and family cases and is also the island's coroner. The chief justice handles serious criminal cases and hears appeals. The constitution binds the judiciary to comply with decisions of the European Court of Human Rights when hearing cases related to human rights.

Although the British military garrison stationed on the Falkland Islands, the islands have a company-sized light infantry unit (FIDF) that is completely funded by the Falklands government (£400,000 in 2009). The unit is trained under a secondment arrangement with the MOD - as of 2010 the FIDF employed a Royal Marine WO2 as a permanent staff instructor and a major as commanding officer; the rest of the force are part-timers. It is equipped with quad bikes, inflatable boats and Land Rovers and is armed with heavy machineguns, grenade launchers and sniper rifles. In addition to defence duties, force provides a mountain rescue service and has been trained by the Royal Navy in mounting armed deterrence against illegal fishing activity.

There are approximately 380 children between the ages of 5 and 16 on the islands (excluding families of military personnel). Their education, which follows the English system, is free and compulsory. Primary education is available at Stanley where there are boarding facilities, at RAF Mount Pleasant for children of service personnel and at a number of rural settlements where remote learning is supported by the Stanley based Camp Education Unit. The Islands' only secondary school is in Stanley and offers boarding facilities and 12 subjects to GCSE level. After 16, suitably qualified students may study at two colleges in England for their A-levels or for vocational qualifications. The government pays for older students to attend higher education, usually in the UK.

Medical careThe Falkland Islands Government Health and Social Services Department provides medical and dental care for the islands. The King Edward VII Memorial Hospital (KEMH), completed in 1987, is Stanley's only hospital. It is run jointly by the Falkland Islands Government and the UK Ministry of Defence. Specialist medical care is provided by visiting ophthalmologists, gynaecologists, ENT surgeons, orthopaedic surgeons, oral surgeons and psychiatrists from the United Kingdom. Patients needing emergency treatment are air-lifted to the United Kingdom or to Santiago (Chile).

The Falkland Islands are located in the South Atlantic Ocean on a projection of the Patagonian continental shelf about 250 nautical miles (463 km; 288 mi) from the Patagonia coastline and slightly to the north of the southerly tip of Cape Horn and of its undersea extension, the Scotia Arc. In ancient geological time this shelf was part of Gondwana, which around 400 million years ago broke from what is now Africa and drifted westwards relative to Africa.

Except for defence, the islands are self sufficient with annual exports of $125 million and imports of $90 million (2004 estimate).

The Falkland Islands use the Falkland pound, which circulate interchangeably with the pound sterling. Falkland notes and coins are produced in the United Kingdom;[92] coins are identical in size to the United Kingdom currency but with local designs on the reverse. The Falkland Islands also issue their own stamps. Both the coins and stamps are a source of revenue from overseas collectors.

Farmland accounts for 4,339.73 sq mi (1,123,985 hectares), more than 90% of the Falklands land area Since 1984, efforts to diversify the economy have made fishing the largest part of the economy and brought increasing income from tourism. Sheep farming was formerly the main source of income for the islands and still plays an important part with high quality wool exports going to the UK. According to the Falklands Government Statistics there are over 500,000 sheep on the islands with roughly 60% on East Falkland and 40% on West Falkland.

The government has operated a fishing zone policy since 1986 with the sale of fishing licences to foreign countries. These licences have recently raised only £12 to 15 million a year in revenue, as opposed to £20m to £25m annually during the 1990s. Locally registered fishing boats are also in operation. More than 75% of the annual catch of 200,000 tonnes (220,000 short tons) are squid.

Tourism has grown rapidly. The islands have become a regular port of call for the growing market of cruise ships with more than 36,000 visitors in 2004. Attractions include the scenery and wildlife conservation with penguins, seabirds, seals and sealions, as well as visits to battlefields, golf, fishing and wreck diving. British military expenditures add to the islands' "tourism" income.

A 1995 agreement between the UK and Argentina had set the terms for exploitation of offshore resources including oil reserves as geological surveys had shown there might be up to 60 billion barrels (9.5 billion cubic metres) of oil under the sea bed surrounding the islands. However, in 2007 Argentina unilaterally withdrew from the agreement.

In response, Falklands Oil and Gas Limited has signed an agreement with BHP Billiton to investigate the potential exploitation of oil reserves. Climatic conditions of the southern seas mean that exploitation will be a difficult task, though economically viable, and the continuing sovereignty dispute with Argentina is hampering progress. In February 2010, exploratory drilling for oil was begun by Desire Petroleum, but the results from the first test well were disappointing.

Two months later, on 6 May 2010, Rockhopper Exploration announced that "it may have struck oil". On Friday 17 September 2010 Rockhopper Exploration released news that a flow test of the Sea-Lion 1 discovery was a commercially viable find. In February 2011 Rockhopper Exploration commenced an appraisal programme of the Sea-Lion discovery. An update of the first appraisal drill were released on Monday 21 March 2011 indicating a significant reservoir package with a downhole mini Drill Stern Test flowing oil at better rates then the September 2010 flow test: confidence in the commerciality of the Sea Lion discovery has been increased by this first appraisal.

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