‘Unacceptable!’ Argentina hits back at British minister as Falkands row boils over

PMQs: Johnson slams opposition over Falklands reaction

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The South American country – which invaded but failed to hold the islands in 1982 – “categorically” rejected Ben Wallace’s vow that the UK would defend the British Overseas Protectorate from “thugs”. Reacting to the Defence Secretary’s comments, the Argentinian Government – which still claims sovereignty of the islands which it calls Las Malvinas – said it considered them “incompatible with the existing diplomatic relationship” it has with the UK.

It added: “The Argentine democratic governments have consolidated their sovereignty claim over the Malvinas within the framework of international law and through peaceful and diplomatic means.

“For this reason, Mr Wallace’s references are absolutely improper and unacceptable.

“The Argentine Republic reiterates that the United Kingdom must comply with the many UN resolutions.”

It then reiterated the “call for a negotiated solution to the sovereignty dispute over Malvinas, South Georgia, South Sandwich Islands and the corresponding maritime areas”.

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Calling on the UK to “respect international norms” it declared “the South Atlantic as a zone of peace and free of nuclear weapons, and the demilitarisation of the Malvinas”.

The firey statement was issued after Mr Wallace said that the UK would “stand up to bullies”.

Speaking at The Falklands 40 Margaret Thatcher Day Lecture, Mr Wallace told an audience that: “Our enemies should not doubt Britain’s determination to stand up to bullies, to defend those who cannot defend themselves and for our values.

“Distance should not deter Britain [from standing up to ‘bullies’], nor will the scale of the challenge.

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“History is littered with the consequences of those who underestimated this small island.

“General Galtieri (the dictator of Argentina who led the invasion) was no different.”

The 1982 invasion was seen as a seminal moment in Margaret Thatcher’s premiership.

And victory over the then-military dictatorship reasserted the UK’s standing as an international player and helped Mrs Thatcher secure a landslide election victory the following year.

While Argentina was insulted by Mr Wallace’s words – he may also have been referring to Russia when he referenced “bullies”.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has been widely criticised for stoking tensions in Ukraine amid worries that he could invade the country.

During the same speech, Mr Wallace highlighted his awareness of “the events in Europe this week”, referring to Russia’s positioning on the border of Ukraine.

He said: “Earlier I updated the House [of Commons] on our concern about Russia’s ongoing aggression towards Ukraine and simplistic efforts to distract attention with false claims and narratives about Nato expansionism.

“While we are hopeful for the best outcomes from this week’s diplomatic efforts, we should not be overly optimistic.”

Additional reporting Maria Ortega

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