Historical Facts or Historical Fiction ?

Yesterday’s interview of the Argentine Defence Minister, Arturo Puricelli, and his threats towards peaceful co-existence with the Falkland islanders has been adequately dealt with elsewhere (‘Sticks and Stones’http://falklandsnews.wordpress.com/ ), but something caught my eye.

” … Puricelli said Argentina has geographical, historical, political and legal arguments placing Malvinas, Georgia and Sandwich Islands and the adjoining waters unquestionably under Argentine sovereignty…”. (  http://en.mercopress.com/2011/08/08/for-argentina-falklands-malvinas-sovereignty-legitimacy-conditions-any-other-negotiation )

‘Unquestionably’ is the sort of word that is supposed to end debate, rather than start one. But, is this a true version of the current situation?

The history of the Falkland islands is long and involved and the argument between Britain and Argentina started with the then Argentine Foreign Minister’s letter to Britain in 1833. This focused on the Falkland Islands and laid out the argument that the islands had been Spanish up until 1811, and then became Argentina’s possession after 1816. The debate, after 178 years of refinement, is long, complicated and probably impossible to resolve.

But what about South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands ?

Part of the Spanish/Argentine argument is that the New World was divided up by Pope Alexander VI in 1493 and that this legitimises their ownership of much of the South American continent. This was certainly a part of the Spanish argument for the Falkland Islands. Portugal received, after some negotiatiation, the section of the Americas falling to the east of a line drawn north/south ‘..370 leagues..’ west of the  Cape Verde Islands.

On this reckoning, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands belonged to Portugal.

And then there is the problem of discovery.

South Georgia was first discovered by an English merchant, Anthony de la Roche, who had been blown off course. Captain James Cook made the first recorded landing in 1775 and named the island after George III, in whose name he claimed it. Subsequent arrangements for the government of South Georgia were established by Letters Patent in 1843.

No Spanish discovery, no Spanish claim, no Spanish settlement. Ever!

The South Sandwich Islands were discovered by Captain Cook in the same year that he landed on South Georgia. This group of islands was named after the then 1st Lord of the Admiralty, John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich. The United Kingdom formally annexed these islands and grouped them together with other British held territory in Antarctica by Letters Patent, in 1908.

No Spanish discovery, no Spanish claim, no Spanish settlement. Ever!

By the time that Argentina came into existence as a seperate State in 1816, both sets of islands had been British possessions for 41 years.

Argentina claimed South Georgia in 1927 and the South Sandwich Islands in 1938.

British attempts to deal with these claims at the International Court of Justice in 1947, 1951, 1953 and 1955 were thwarted by Argentina’s refusal to recognise the jurisdiction of the United Nation’s court.

Argentina has never attempted to explain its claims to these islands.

What Argentina does attempt to do is to group South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands together with the Falkland Islands in a desperate attempt to fudge the difference.

This is just an illegal, unjustified land grab and there are no ‘ .. geographical, historical, or legal ..’ arguments.

There is only politics !

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