Falkland Islanders have delivered a blunt message to the Argentine government as it launched a legal campaign to stop them searching for oil in their own coastal waters.
Daniel Filmus, Argentina’s minister for the disputed islands, announced the country had begun legal proceedings against three British and two US companies who are drilling for oil, the BBC reports.
But the residents on the islands, which lie 300-miles south east of the Patagonian coast, took to twitter to tell the South American country to “Falk Off”.
The companies involved are Falkland Oil and Gas, Premier Oil, Rockhopper, Edison International and Noble Energy.
Despite the islands being part of British Overseas Territory, entirely self-governing except in the case of foreign affairs and defence, Mr Filmus told the BBC the companies were “performing illegal acts by entering Argentine territory”.
“I want to make it clear for the directors of these companies and for British public opinion that Argentina will use the full force of the law – both national and international law – to prevent these countries from taking the riches which belong to 40 million Argentine citizens.
“Argentina has extradition treaties around the world and we intend to use them.”
He added that the area being drilled was “as much ours as the centre of Buenos Aires. Neither the UK nor any other country would allow anyone to enter their territory and take away their riches.”
But a statement on the official website of the Falkland Islands pointed out that the nation entered a joint agreement with Argentina over hydrocarbons exploration in 1995, adding ‘In 2007 the Argentine Government tore this up’.
A spokesman responded to Argentina’s actions saying: “We have the right to develop our economy, including the hydrocarbons industry, and we are exercising that right.”
“It is worth remembering that it was the government of Argentina who walked away from working with the Falkland Islands on the development of a hydrocarbons industry some years ago.
“Argentine domestic law does not apply to the Falkland Islands and this latest action is clearly another attempt by Argentina to try to block economic growth in the Falkland Islands.
Argentina has repeatedly tried to damage the economy of the islands, including Decree 256 which denied innocent passage of vessel transiting in Argentine waters and the banning of charter flights which support the tourism industry.
In a bizarre statement which the Falkland Islanders re-published on twitter, the minister said:
“Argentina has no desire to infringe the human rights of the inhabitants. But that doesn’t mean they deserve free determination.” And he failed to respond to a question by a resident asking him: ‘If
#Falklands residents aren’t going to be subjugated by force, how will u subjugate us?’
In response, UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond accused the Argentines of “outrageous bullying”.
He said the islanders had a “perfect right to develop their own economic resources and Argentina needs to stop this kind of behaviour and start acting like a responsible member of the international community”.