Clinton balks at Argentine request for Falklands mediation

Hillary Clinton offered to help Britain and Argentina resolve a simmering row but balked at an Argentine request for US mediation.

Updated: Mar 02, 2010, 10:06 AM IST

Buenos Aires: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton offered to help Britain and Argentina resolve a simmering row over a south Atlantic archipelago but balked at an Argentine request for US mediation.
Clinton gave no sign Washington would prod ally Britain into dropping its refusal to respond to Argentina`s new campaign for dialogue on the sovereignty of the Falklands after a British firm began drilling for oil last month.

During a press conference with the visiting US chief diplomat, Argentine President Cristina Kirchner publicly asked the United States to play a mediating role.

However, Clinton sidestepped the issue.

"We would like to see Argentina and the UK sit down and resolve the issues between them in a peaceful and productive way," Clinton said as she stood next to Kirchner in an ornate room of the Casa Rosada presidential palace.

"We want very much to encourage both countries to sit down and we cannot make either one do so," the secretary of state said when pressed further on the issue by a Spanish-speaking journalist.

"But we think it is the right way to proceed. So we will be saying this publicly, as I have been, and we will continue to encourage exactly the kind of discussion across the table that needs to take place," she said.

Speaking through an interpreter, Kirchner said: "What we have requested is (US) mediation, as a friendly country, of both Argentina and the UK so as to get both countries to sit down at the table."

Kirchner repeated Argentine demands that dialogue must be based on UN Security Council resolutions. Buenos Aires is angry that London continues to skirt UN resolutions calling on both governments to renew a dialogue on the sovereignty of the Falklands.

Clinton`s comments come a week after a State Department spokesman said the two countries should hold "good-faith dialogue" to overcome their differences.

Britain, which claims its sovereignty of the islands is clear under international law, has ignored the call for talks, which has the backing of Argentina`s regional allies in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Argentina has claimed the islands for more than a century, and wants Britain to discuss a Hong Kong-style departure plan.

London has argued that Falkland Islanders, who have British citizenship, should have the right of self-determination.

The Falklands lie 450 kilometers (280 miles) off the South American Atlantic coast. Britain has held the windswept South Atlantic Ocean archipelago since 1833 in the face of claims by Argentina, which calls them the Malvinas.

Argentina invaded the islands in 1982, prompting a short but bloody war with Britain in which 649 Argentine troops and 255 British military personnel died. Latin American countries were shocked and irate when the United States sided with Britain in the 1982 conflict.

During a visit to Montevideo, the capital of neighboring Uruguay, and on the plane to Buenos Aires, Clinton urged dialogue but said Washington could not make it happen if one side did not agree.

Clinton`s call for dialogue could address lingering concerns about regional loyalties as the United States was seen as backing an extraregional power against its own neighbor at the time.

Bureau Report