Obama claims Neutral Positions on Falkland claim by the UK?

February 26, 2010
Barack Obama has taken a neutral stance on the Falklands (Photo: Getty)

It was a headline I never expected to read: “US refuses to endorse British sovereignty in Falklands oil dispute.” Washington has declined to back Britain in its dispute with Argentina over drilling rights in the waters surrounding the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the Sandwich Islands. President Obama’s position is one of strict neutrality, refusing to take sides. According to the State Department:

We are aware not only of the current situation but also of the history, but our position remains one of neutrality. The US recognises de facto UK administration of the islands but takes no position on the sovereignty claims of either party.

Has it come to this? Tony Blair sacrificed his political career and jeopardised Britain’s international standing by making common cause with America in the War on Terror. No matter how often he claims it was because he believed it was “the right thing to do”, we all know what was really going on in his head. He simply didn’t want to break ranks with the United States. The Atlantic alliance has been the cornerstone of British foreign policy since 1941, when Winston Churchill and Franklin D Roosevelt joined forces against the Axis powers. Dean Acheson may have declared that Britain had lost an empire and yet to find a role, but successive British Prime Ministers have know what their role is and, by and large, it has been to stand shoulder to shoulder with America, presenting a united front in a series of global conflicts, from the Cold War to the Gulf.

Falklands war veterans, one holding up a sign that reads in Spanish "The islands are Argentine," referring to the Falklands islands, demonstrate in front of the National Congress in Buenos Aires, Wednesday Feb. 24, 2010.

Washington refused to endorse British claims to sovereignty over the Falkland
Islands yesterday as the diplomatic row over oil drilling in the South
Atlantic intensified in London, Buenos Aires and at the UN.

Despite Britain’s close alliance with the US, the Obama Administration is
determined not to be drawn into the issue. It has also declined to back
Britain’s claim that oil exploration near the islands is sanctioned by
international law, saying that the dispute is strictly a bilateral issue.

Argentina appealed to the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki Moon, last night to
intervene in the dispute, a move Britain adamantly opposes.

“The Secretary-General knows about the issue. He is not happy to learn that
the situation is worsening,” Jorge Taiana, the Argentine Foreign Minister,
said after meeting Mr Ban in New York.

offices, to stress to Britain the need to abstain from further unilateral
acts.”

A top UN aide acknowledged, however, that Mr Ban would not be able to mediate
because of Britain’s opposition.

Sir Mark Lyall Grant, Britain’s Ambassador to the UN, said: “As British
ministers have made clear, the UK has no doubt about its sovereignty over
the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the Sandwich Islands . . . We are
also clear that the Falkland Islands Government is entitled to develop a
hydrocarbons industry within its waters, and we support this legitimate
business in Falklands’ territory.”

Senior US officials insisted that Washington’s position on the Falklands was
one of longstanding neutrality. This is in stark contrast to the public
backing and vital intelligence offered by President Reagan to Margaret
Thatcher once she had made the decision to recover the islands by force in
1982.

Vernet had been ceded Soledad Island (East Falkland) for commercial exploitation as payment for a debt the Buenos Aires Government owed him. Aside from Vernet’s worker, among which Argentinians were a minority, a few gauchos and adventurers lived in the Falklands.
Vernet’s daughter was the only person born in the Falklands during that precarious settlement. “Precarious” since there was no town hall, no churches, nor any civil society of any type. Aside from the couple of years of the Frenchman’s enterprise, there was nothing more than a pirate encampment.
In 1833 the Falklands had some 20 inhabitants of various nationalities. All were expelled by the British. Interestingly, shortly after, dictator Juan Manuel de Rosas offered more than once to cede the islands to the United Kingdom to pay off a debt Buenos Aires owed British banking institutions. However, London ignored the Argentinian claim or offer.