Falklands to hold 2013 referendum in bid to settle sovereignty dispute
Surprise announcement on eve of Argentine President's attempt to step up pressure at UN
The Falkland Islands is to hold a referendum on its "political status", with the aim of sending a message to Argentina and bringing an end the continuing sovereignty dispute.
The announcement of the poll comes ahead of tomorrow's 30th anniversary of the end of the 74-day occupation by the Galtieri junta in 1982. The Argentine President, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, is due to raise the issue at the United Nations, part of a ratcheting up of tension over the disputed islands.
The British and Falkland Islands governments have accused Buenos Aires of trying to impose an "economic blockade". Argentina has been turning away cruise ships flying the British flag and is taking legal action against five UK oil firms exploring the islands' waters.
The referendum is similar to a poll in Gibraltar in 2002, in which the idea of Britain sharing sovereignty with Spain was rejected by 98.5 per cent of the population. The referendum will take place in the first half of next year, with international observers invited to verify the results. The date and wording of the referendum question will be announced within two weeks.
Gavin Short, chairman of the islands' legislative assembly, said: "I have no doubt that the people of the Falklands wish for the islands to remain a self-governing overseas territory of the United Kingdom. We certainly have no desire to be ruled by the government in Buenos Aires, a fact that is immediately obvious to anyone who has visited the islands and heard our views.
"But we are aware that not everybody is able to come to these beautiful islands and to see this reality for themselves. And the Argentine government deploys misleading rhetoric that wrongly implies that we have no strong views or even that we are being held hostage by the UK military. This is simply absurd."
Downing Street acknowledged that the Falklands government had discussed its plans for a referendum with Britain, but insisted it had no role in prompting the decision. David Cameron insisted that it was "absolutely right" that the islanders set out how they intended to "make their voices heard once more". He added: "Next year's referendum will determine beyond doubt the views of the people of the Falklands. Britain will respect and defend their choice. We look to all UN members to live up to their responsibilities under the UN Charter and accept the islanders' decision about how they want to live."
There was no immediate reaction from Buenos Aires.
- 1 Al Pacino on suffering from depression: 'It can last and it's terrifying'
- 2 Half of young women unable to ‘locate vagina’ and 65% find it difficult to say the word
- 3 Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb
- 4 A teacher speaks out: 'I'm effectively being forced out of a career that I wanted to love'
- 5 Mexican woman becomes world’s 'oldest person' at 127
Perez Hilton apologises for publishing Jennifer Lawrence naked photo leak
Jennifer Lawrence 'nude photo hacker' claims there are hundreds more celebrity images to come
Victoria Justice on naked photo leak: 'Let me nip this in the bud right now – pun intended'
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb
Ariana Grande nude photos leak: Pictures are completely fake, say singer's representatives
Rotherham child sex abuse scandal: Labour Home Office to be probed over what Tony Blair's government knew - and when
What do immigrants really think of Britain? Polish immigrant's Reddit post goes viral
Ashya King: Parents of five-year-old boy refused permission to visit him in hospital and denied bail at Spanish court
With Douglas Carswell joining Ukip, my party has taken another giant step forward
When elitism grips the top of British society to this extent, there is only one answer: abolish private schools
Ashya King: 'Cruel NHS has not given us the treatment we need', says father of five-year-old with brain tumour who fled to Spain
£26000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: SAP Assessor Job T...
Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: SEN Jobs Available Devon
£600 - £900 per day: Harrington Starr: Infrastructure Lead, (Trading infrastru...
£20000 - £21000 per annum + Training: Ashdown Group: Graduate Software Solutio...