Saturday, April 18, 2015

UK accuses Argentina of ‘bullying’

The Argentine government ratified yesterday in London that the criminal complaint against five energy companies carrying out hydrocarbon exploration in the contested disputed waters off the Malvinas Islands is set to move forward next week, sparking a strongly-worded rebuke from UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond.

Hammond characterized the legal action as “outrageous bullying” and asserted that the Malvinas Islands residents have the right to develop their own economic resources.

The exchange was just the latest episode in a spat revolving around military spending, intelligence and hydrocarbon exploration that has led to the Argentine Foreign Ministry and the United Kingdom’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) both issuing summons to each country’s ambassadors.

Daniel Filmus, Secretary for Malvinas Affairs, made waves yesterday in the British capital by holding a press conference in which he confirmed that progress is expected next week on the criminal complaint against Rockhopper Exploration, Premier Oil, Falkland Oil and Gas, Noble Energy and Edison International. Prosecutors are expected to back the government’s initial complaint and submit it to a judge in Río Grande, Tierra del Fuego province. Requests for measures to collect evidence in the case are also expected.

Rockhopper, Premier and Falkland Oil and Gas are British companies.

“We want the Argentine justice system to punish the businesses that are operating without authorization on the Argentine continental shelf,” Filmus said. If the case prospers,the judge may summon executive staff and managers of the companies and will have the option to request international arrest warrants if deemed necessary.

“We came to discuss the issue in London, where the better part of these matters is decided and there was plenty of attention,” Filmus said. “We want to discuss, not only with the authorities but also with British public opinion, the arguments that back the Argentine position and to demonstrate that we are a peaceful country.”

Filmus was accompanied by the Argentine Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Alicia Castro, at the Official Residence.

The British response was swift.
“Argentina needs to stop this kind of behaviour and start acting like a responsible member of the international community,” Secretary Hammond told Sky News television.
Hammond also asserted that Malvinas Island residents have the right to develop their own economic resources.
That position was echoed by the government of the islands, which issued a statement in which it vigorously defended its “right to develop our economy, including the hydrocarbons industry, and we are exercising that right.”
The diplomatic and legal spat is parallel to recent announcement by three of the companies named in the complaint, which announced that shelved plans to drill a second well in the south and eastern parts of the islands following the steep drop in oil prices, one of the companies said.
  • Noble Energy, Falkland Oil and Gas and Edison International, said they would continue drilling in other parts of the disputed territory.
“We believe that disciplined capital management is crucial in the current oil price environment and this decision leaves our company in a stronger financial position,” said Tim Bushell earlier this week, Chief Executive of Falkland Oil and Gas, which has stakes in several prospects off the South Atlantic islands.
His words contrasted those he uttered only a couple of months ago. In February, Bushell had said that the drop in oil prices was actually helping the company’s expansion, as the decline in demand for new oil rigs around the world had made drilling cheaper in long-term projects such as those taking place off the Malvinas.

Oil, spies and soldiers
The standoff over hydrocarbon exploration in the South Atlantic was not the only matter that London and Buenos Aires do not see eye to eye on as Argentine claims of militarization of the islands and reports of British intelligence activity in the country have also troubled relations.
As such, the statement issued by the government of the islands insisted that “UK forces are here as a deterrent and levels of personnel over the past 10-15 years have reduced considerably. The recent review will not lead to any increase in the size of the military in the Islands but rather an investment into infrastructure here in the Islands.”
Britain has been slated to spend 180 million pounds (US$268 million) over the next 10 years on renewing and beefing up its defences of the Malvinas Islands. That spending will reportedly also include upgrades to harbour infrastructure.
Britain is to deploy two RAF Chinook transport helicopters to help the islands’ garrison, but they are not expected to arrive in the South Atlantic until July 2016.
In a Commons statement, Mr Fallon said personnel levels would remain at about 1,200. The UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office has indicated that historical maximum is 20,000 soliders in the immediate aftermath of the 1982 Malvinas War.
Filmus made reference to that issue at subsequent discussion at Canning House — one of the UK’s premier think thanks devoted to Latin American affairs — during which he labelled as “incomprehensible” statements made by UK Defence Secretary Michael Fallon which described Argentina as a threat to the islands. The secretary also said that talk of an Argentine threat was an “excuse” to increase military spending and in the past Ambassador Castro has chalked up Fallon’s comments as being attributable to the UK’s domestic elections.
Discussion also touched on documents leaked by Edward Snowden to online media outlet The Intercept that describe British electronic eavesdropping and London efforts to manipulate public opinion over the Malvinas dispute. Filmus said that the UK owed the country an explanation.

Election season
Tensions and sabre-rattling over the Malvinas has coincided with the run-up to elections on both sides of the Atlantic.
Britons head to the election booths on May 7, the first general election since 2010 — and one of the most unpredictable in history. At stake is the balance of forces within the House of Commons in the British parliament and as such the position of prime minsiter. Prime Minister David Cameron of the Conservative party, the larger partner in the coalition with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg of the Liberal Democrats, will be facing off against Labour leader Ed Miliband in a bid to retain his position.
Defence spending at a time of austerity in Britain has been in the news and the Conservative party has traditionally been strong on defence issues.
Election season has commenced in Argentinas as well. The presidential elections in October are still too close to call and in the months ahead voters and the political cass alike will be paying close attention to the series of provincial elections for any trends. In a highly polarized political scene, the sovereignty claims over the Malvinas is one of the few matters that enjoys support across the party spectrum.
Herald staff with Télam, Reuters

1 comment:

  1. La denuncia penal contra las petroleras que operan en Malvinas será presentada mañana ante la Justicia...

    La presentación contra cinco empresas extranjeras que realizan actividades ilegales de exploración de hidrocarburos quedará formalizada ante la justicia federal de Tierra del Fuego, ratificaron fuentes de la Procuración General de la Nación.

    ....Tras de esas empresas anunciaron -tras la denuncia del gobierno argentino que fue presentada por la Cancillería y el ministerio de Planificación Académica- que postergarán a una fecha indeterminada una perforación en las inmediaciones de las islas debido a las bajas cotizaciones del petróleo.

    Ellas son la británica Falkland Oil and Gas Limited (FOGL) y las
    estadounidenses Noble Energy y Edison International que renunciaron por el momento a perforar un segundo pozo en el mar en la zona sur y este de la cuenta de las


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