PORT STANLEY, Falklands (Reuters) -- Britain insisted on Wednesday
that the sovereignty of the disputed Falklands was definitely not up for
negotiation with Argentina but urged the islanders to have closer contacts.
Foreign Affairs Minister of State Tony Lloyd was reacting to reports from
Buenos Aires that Argentine President Carlos Menem might consider
temporarily freezing its claim if Britain promised eventually to negotiate
Menem said talks were under way about the possibility of the Argentine
flying over the islands before he finishes his mandate at the end of the year.
This would fulfil a key election promise for Menem, who plans to run for
president again when the constitution next permits him in 2003.
"The possibility exists for Argentine flags to fly over the islands," Menem
the daily La Nacion last month.
Lloyd, interviewed by a local newsletter on the disputed South Atlantic
islands, said: "There are no negotiations about sovereignty taking place --
that is very clear, very unambiguous."
Britain has steadfastly refused to discuss the sovereignty of the sparsely
populated islands since expelling an Argentine force which captured them for
10 weeks in 1982.
But Lloyd did take the opportunity of expressing his desire for closer
contacts between Argentina and the Falkland islanders, who still remain
deeply suspicious and refuse even to allow Argentine passport-holders into
"We have always made it clear that it is in the islanders' interest to
look as to
how and in what direction and how quickly contacts with Argentina can and
should be developed," he said.
"I have pointed out to them that there has been significant advantage in
having contact with Argentina such as fisheries policy. It is very important we
recognise areas where there is mutual advantage in contacts."
Asked if Britain had come under any pressure from the United States or
United Nations to negotiate over the Falklands, Lloyd said: "No, we have
not had any pressure. It is inconceivable that we would come under what is
described as pressure."
Copyright 1999 Reuters.