Argentine Ministry Omits Disputed Islands, Draws Rebukes

(@FahadShabbir)

Argentine ministry omits disputed islands, draws rebukes

BUENOS AIRES, Jan 2 (APP - UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 02nd Jan, 2017 ) : New Year's greetings tend to be uncontroversial, but an Argentine ministry sparked angry reaction over the weekend when a map of the country accompanying its year-end wishes omitted an island chain that sparked a short but bitter war with Britain.

Argentina has long claimed the islands it calls the Malvinas, which Britain occupied in 1833 and renamed the Falklands. Argentine forces seized the chain in 1982 to reclaim sovereignty, but Britain prevailed in a 74-day war that claimed hundreds of lives on both sides.

So when the Argentine Ministry of Social Development posted its new year greetings online with a map that omitted the islands, the reaction from war veterans and political opponents was quick and fierce.

Saul Perez, who fought in the war, expressed his "uneasiness," telling news channel C5N that "it was not a mistake." He said he had no doubt that the omission was part of a campaign by the government of President Mauricio Macri to "place a priority on bilateral trade" over Argentina's historic claim of sovereignty.

On September 13, in a tentative effort to end decades of rancor, Argentine and British negotiators reached agreement in Buenos Aires on oil and gas exploration, fishing, trade, shipping and air transport.

Center-right Macri, in power since late 2015, said he wanted to improve relations with Britain, a step seen as aimed at boosting Argentina's flagging economy. But the pact did not touch on the delicate question of the islands' sovereignty -- a decision harshly criticized by the political opposition.

Alicia Castro, Argentine ambassador to Britain during the previous administration of Cristina Kirchner, called the absence of the islands in the development ministry's greeting "inadmissible." "I haven't been able to sleep," she told Argentina's Radio 10, "I'm so upset to see this mutilated map." While the British might publish such a map, she said, no Argentine government had ever done so.

In the face of such criticism, the development ministry issued a tweet Monday apologizing for what it called a "design department error." The 1982 war claimed the lives of 649 Argentine combatants and 255 British troops before Argentina finally surrendered in the face of an imposing armada dispatched from Britain by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

In a 2013 referendum, the island chain's 3,000 inhabitants voted overwhelmingly in favor of remaining under British rule. Argentina dismissed the result.