London: Prime Minister David Cameron vowed on Thursday to defend the Falkland Islands after a "momentous" year in which residents voted to remain a British overseas territory.
In a Christmas message, Cameron said the world should respect the overwhelming result of a referendum in March which came in the face of increasing calls from Argentina to negotiate the island`s sovereignty.
"2013 will be remembered as a momentous year in the history of the Falkland Islands," Cameron said. "So as we look to 2014, you can count on the British government`s continued support in countering the Argentine government`s campaign to claim the islands` resources and to inflict damage on your economy."
Cameron said Argentina`s attempts to damage the islands` economy involved recent "shameful attempts to discourage hydrocarbons exploration" in Falklands waters.
The islanders voted 99.8 per cent in favour of staying British in a referendum last month, but Argentina rejected the vote as meaningless.
Cameron said Britain would "remain steadfast in its commitment to your sovereignty and security". "The Argentine government will never succeed in any attempt to misrepresent the history of your islands or question your right to self-determination," the prime minister added.
"Britain will always be ready to defend the Falkland Islands." Argentina invaded the Falklands, a windswept archipelago, on April 2, 1982, but surrendered on June 14 after a British task force reclaimed it.
Argentina`s then-ruling military junta tried to claim the south Atlantic islands, which Argentines call the Malvinas.
The conflict killed 649 Argentine and 255 British service personnel. Cameron also paid tribute to the late Margaret Thatcher, who as prime minister launched the task force. She died in April.
"Her contribution to the security and future of these islands will never be forgotten," he said.