LONDON — Argentina’s demand for direct control of shipping from the South American mainland to the Falkland Islands has raised fears about conflict over energy resources.
Britain triumphed when the old antagonists fought in 1982 for control of the sparsely populated islands. National pride was at stake, along with bruised feelings from the colonial era and the disputed loyalty of the Falklanders themselves.
This time, the confrontation is over something more tangible: control of substantial oil and gas reserves that are expected to generate thousands of jobs and billions of dollars.
British Foreign Office officials Wednesday rejected Argentine President Cristina Fernandez’s announcement Tuesday that ships travelling from the South American mainland would need a licence from Argentina to travel to the Falklands, known in Argentina as the Malvinas.
Britannia rules those waves, they said, stating that the Argentine policy would not apply in Falkland territorial waters.
Legislator Andrew Rosindell, secretary of the parliamentary committee dealing with the Falklands, said it would be dangerous to ignore Argentina’s provocative stance.
“Any attempt by Argentina to claim any sort of rights of sovereignty over that region is something we should take very seriously,” he said. “I don’t think we should appease Buenos Aires — we found out what happens last time.”
But he said fresh military conflict is unlikely because Argentina knows it cannot successfully challenge Britain.
“This is typical grandstanding, but they know the British are well prepared and this is a battle they cannot win.”