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Milei vows roadmap towards Argentine sovereignty over British-ruled Falkland Islands

By Abel Alvarado, CNN

(CNN) — Argentina’s President Javier Milei has said his government is committed to establishing a “roadmap” towards Argentine sovereignty of the British-ruled Falkland Islands.

“I want to reiterate our unwavering claim for the islands, and I commit that during our government we will be able to have a clear roadmap so that the Malvinas return to Argentine hands,” Milei said Tuesday, using Argentina’s preferred name for the islands, whose sovereignty is the source of a long-running dispute with the United Kingdom.

Milei was speaking during a ceremony in Buenos Aires to mark the 42nd anniversary of the start of the war between the two countries over the chilly, windswept island chain in the South Atlantic, 300 miles east of the tip of South America.

The 74-day war was sparked when the then-military government in Argentina landed an invading force on the islands on April 2, 1982. It ended with a British victory that followed hundreds of casualties on both sides. Argentina has estimated its death toll from the conflict at around 645, while Britain lost 255 personnel.

The war and status of the islands still rankles deeply many Argentinians and the cause has often been taken up by the country’s politicians in the years since.

Milei, who was sworn into office in December, said the “best tribute” for those who died during the conflict was to “defend the unwavering claim for Argentine sovereignty” over the islands.

“But a real and sincere claim, not mere words in international forums with no impact on reality and that only serve the politician in power to impose a false love for the country,” he added.

As a presidential candidate, Milei said Argentina had lost the war to the British and must “make every effort to recover the islands through diplomatic channels,” according to state news agency Télam.

Shortly afterwards, the UK Prime Minister’s official spokesperson said the issue was already “settled decisively some time ago” and that the UK would “proactively defend” the islanders’ right to self-determination.

During a visit to the islands in February, UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron echoed the PM’s office and said the UK will “protect and defend” the Falkland Islands as long as they “want to be part of the UK family.”

“We will support them, and back them and help protect and defend them, absolutely, as far as I’m concerned, for as long as they want. And I hope that’s for a very, very long time, possibly forever,” he said at the time.

Cameron also said the UK wants to have a good relationship with Milei’s government, “but it will never be at the expense of the wishes of the Falkland Islanders.”

Long-coveted islands

The Falklands have long been coveted as a strategic shipping stopover and potential wellspring of natural resources, including lucrative fisheries and a growing oil drilling industry.

The islands, which raise their own taxes but rely on the United Kingdom for defense and foreign policy, are one of 14 British Overseas Territories and have been under British rule since 1833.

More than 3,200 people live in the islands from more than 60 countries, according to the Falkland Islands government website.

In 2013, a referendum was held in the islands to ask the 1,600 residents who were eligible to vote whether they wanted to remain a British Overseas Territory. More than 99% of voters who cast ballots said yes.

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