Hague brands Argentina's Falkland advert a 'sad stunt'
Clip showing hockey star training for London 2012 'on Argentine soil' in Port Stanley provokes fury
As a way of reminding everybody of Argentina's claims to the Falkland Islands, the idea of getting the national hockey captain Fernando Zylberberg to trot past various noted Falkands' landmarks was cute. It succeeded in raising the diplomatic temperature without endangering any lives, and it avoided the heavy hand associated with the bad old days of General Galtieri. The voiceover to the video merely said, "To compete on English soil, we train on Argentine soil." It verged on the witty.
But if this "sad stunt," as William Hague characterised the advertisement, was intended to demonstrate the solidity of Argentina's claims to the archipelago, the director might have found a more persuasive backdrop than an English pub and a British war monument. A decaying barrio in a Port Stanley slum, home to the abject and abused Argentinean population of the capital, would have carried more punch.
But of course no such barrio exists: the archipelago's population, grand total at the last count 3,140, is not of exclusively of British descent, but compared to the population of other parts of the world whose sovereignty is a matter of dispute, it's as near to that as makes no difference. And there has never been any doubt about which country they owe allegiance to.
This cheeky irredentist advertisement followed hard on the heels of the intervention last week in London by Argentina's ambassador Alicia Castro. Ambushing Mr Hague at a press conference at which he introduced the Foreign Office's annual report on human rights, she told him: "Foreign Secretary, you talk about Britain promoting human rights and peace in all corners of the world – we need to introduce peace and dialogue over the Malvinas ...the UN, the international community and a number of Nobel laureates have called upon both countries to hold meaningful dialogues to resolve this matter...are you willing to give peace a chance?"
Mr Hague replied with a dead bat, saying : "Self-determination is a basic political right of the people of the Falkland Islands, and they can count on us, always, permanently, to stand by them."
Voices from the front line: Viewers' verdicts
Stacey Braggers, islander
"I think the video was intended for domestic consumption. We're used to Argentina acting provocatively to try and further its case but it's dis-appointing they have mixed sport with politics. It was disrespectful for the athletes to climb over a war memorial."
Ian Hansen, member of Falkland Islands Legislative Assembly
"At no stage in the video did it feature any islanders, which we feel mirrors Argentina's policy of pretending we don't exist. We determine our own future, and we will not be bullied by the Argentine Government."
Col Mike Bowles MBE, Falklands War veteran
"I was not surprised because they do such strange things. It irritated me because it is politicising sport. It's just a publicity stunt. It's a shame they have got to drag the Olympics down to that level of bickering."
Caris Stevens, islander
"Everyone is just determined to ignore it. The Argentine Government keeps saying it wants to give peace a chance. If that was so, they would have let us know they were going to make the video."
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