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|An opportunity to celebrate the liberation of the Falklands|
|Wednesday, 13 June 2012 22:31|
TODAY is the thirtieth anniversary of the conclusion of the Falklands conflict.
This week I will be representing the British Government at the commemorative service being held on the Falkland Islands. It will be a very moving and significant event. It is an opportunity to celebrate the liberation of the Falklands and the success of the British Armed Forces. It is also an opportunity for sombre reflections, for the lives lost, on both sides of the conflict.
This week we will remember those 255 members of our armed services who made the ultimate sacrifice for a democratic principle that remains as important today as it was then: that the people of the Falkland Islands have the right to determine by whom they are governed.
During my two years as a Foreign Office Minister, I have had official meetings in many Latin American countries, most recently in March, when I visited Chile, Peru and Colombia. I have been reminding the Foreign Ministers whom I meet that the Falkland Islanders want to stay British, be allowed to live in peace with their neighbours, and develop their economic livelihoods without outside interference. And that the British Government is committed to standing by them and steadfastly defending their sovereign rights as fellow British citizens. I will make this point clear again when I am on the Falkland Islands this week.
And yet, thirty years after the conflict, the Falkland Islands people are being forced to defend themselves once more. In the past few years, we have seen a disturbing pattern of behaviour by the current Argentinean Government which is designed to strangle the Falkland Islands’ economy and cast doubts about the Islanders sovereign right to stay British. This policy of coercion and intimidation, which neither the Falkland Islanders nor the British Government have ever sought to provoke, is an unwelcome departure from the policy of engagement and cooperation we saw from previous Argentinean governments over the last two decades. It also goes against the spirit of international collaboration and economic cooperation which the British Government is actively seeking to promote, not just with Latin American countries, but right across the globe, in order to increase trade opportunities, create prosperity and boost employment.
It is important that the Argentine government is clear about the position of the British Government: we will not allow the Falkland Islanders to be threatened nor their freely and democratically expressed views to be disregarded in the international community. To that end, we have been working very closely with the Falkland Islands Government. Ultimately, this is about the people of the Falkland Islands, some of whose families have lived there for nine generations. We are supporting their efforts to explain why they wish to continue to be free to determine their own future.
In recent months, the Islands’ political representatives have spoken eloquently and persuasively to the world’s media. They have explained how the Argentine Government’s policy of economic aggression shows a clear disregard for the principle of settling disputes peacefully, and how it has torn up previous agreements to work together with the Islanders on oil exploration, management of fisheries and improving transportation links. Throughout this period, the Islanders have conducted themselves with grace, dignity and statesmanship in showing the world that they are a hard working, resilient and forward looking community. They just want to be left in peace to get on with their lives.
I was just twelve years old when the Falklands conflict ended. I remember vividly watching the pictures on television. Thirty years is a long time, but for people across Britain, those images will still be powerfully clear. And the reasons why the war was fought and won remain clear today too. The principles of freedom and self determination remain just as vital now as they were then.
This anniversary provides an opportunity to commemorate both the sacrifice of the past and our enduring values into the future.
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