Exactly 30 years after the retaking by Britain of the Falkland Islands, hostilities of an entirely rhetorical kind erupted in a packed conference room at the United Nations last night pitting white-haired and pugnacious members of the islands' government against no lesser a foe than Cristina Fernandez, the President of Argentina.
Making an extraordinary appearance before a normally little-noticed committee dedicated occasionally to pondering the progress of decolonisation around the globe Ms Fernandez unleashed a winding denunciation of Britain's ownership of the islands and renewed her demands that London accede to negotiations on their future.
Referring to the islands as Las Malvinas, Ms Fernandez fired serial salvos. "One hundred and eighty years ago we were usurped," she said with an invasion by the "great naval empire" of Britain, giving a protracted lesson on South Atlantic history. She then pivoted to geography, "How can it be claimed from 14,000 kilometres away that this territory is part of the British territory? How can it be?"
She lashed out at Downing Street for raising the flag of the Falklands Islands yesterday. "When I looked today at 10 Downing Street and saw them and what they were doing with the flag which they call the Falkland Islands flag I felt shame from afar for them because wars are not to be celebrated nor are they to be commemorated."
Renewing her demand for bilateral talks, she said: "We are just asking to sit down at a a table to talk. Can someone in a modern world deny that possibility and say they are leaders of the civilised world and defenders of human rights? No. The truth is, one cannot do both".
Ms Fernandez earlier took her seat to loud applause from a delegation of Argentine officials so large it took up a full third of available seats in the room. Many had arrived with her from Buenos Aires aboard her presidential plane, Tango One. From New York it will take Ms Fernandez to the G20 summit in Mexico on Monday where she may attempt to tackle the Prime Minister, David Cameron, directly on the issue.
Leading a woefully outnumbered handful of "kelpers" – as Falkland Islanders call themselves – were two members of the islands' government, Michael Summers and Roger Edwards. The seat reserved for Britain was left deliberately empty; a junior British diplomat sat one row behind as an "observer".
Mr Summers noted: "As much as Argentina might like to airbrush us out of existence, to satisfy its unjustified lust for our land, such behaviour belongs to another era and should not be tolerated in this modern world."
Mr Edwards added: "This Argentine Government claims to fight against colonialism, yet wishes to take away our people's rights, annex our islands and subject our people to alien subjugation and domination – the very definition of colonialism."
Referencing the decision announced by Port Stanley earlier this week to hold a referendum on the status of the islands next year, Mr Edwards went on: "All that we ask for is the right to determine our own future without having to endure the belligerent and bullying tactics of a neighbouring country."
Meanwhile in Britain, Government leaders, including Mr Cameron, led more sober ceremonies to commemorate the end of the war. "When it comes to the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands, there will be absolutely no negotiation," Mr Cameron insisted.Reuse content