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Sunak criticises EU’s ‘regrettable choice of words’ over Falklands

Port Stanley in the Flkaland Islands. Photo by Emma Hallett

By Sophie Wingate, PA Political Correspondent

Rishi Sunak has criticised the European Union’s “regrettable choice of words” after it appeared to have endorsed the name Argentina uses for the Falkland Islands.

A diplomatic row erupted after the EU referred to the islands as “Islas Malvinas” in a declaration jointly signed with Argentina and other Latin American countries.

Downing Street said any suggestion that the EU would recognise Argentina’s claims on the Falklands would have been “entirely unacceptable”, as it welcomed a subsequent clarification that EU countries have not in fact changed their position on their status.

The initial statement, published on Tuesday after a summit between EU nations and the Celac bloc of Latin American and Caribbean states, said: “Regarding the question of sovereignty over the Islas Malvinas / Falkland Islands, the European Union took note of Celac’s historical position based on the importance of dialogue and respect for international law in the peaceful solution of disputes.”

British diplomats reportedly complained about the wording, which Argentina’s president Alberto Fernandez appeared to hail on Twitter as support for his country’s long-standing “claim to sovereignty” over the Falklands.

In a statement, EU foreign affairs spokesman Peter Stano said: “The EU Member States have not changed their views and positions concerning the Falklands/Islas Malvinas."

“The EU is not in a situation to express any position on the Falklands/Islas Malvinas, as there is not any Council discussion on this matter.”

Mr Sunak’s official spokesman told reporters on Thursday: “The Prime Minister’s view is that it would have been entirely unacceptable for the EU to question the Falkland Islanders’ right to decide their own future."

“To be clear, the Falkland Islands are British, that was the choice of the islanders themselves."

“The EU has rightly now clarified that their position on the Falklands has not changed after their regrettable choice of words."

“And just as a reminder, in the 2013 referendum, 99.8% of islanders voted to be part of the UK family. It’s a position supported by international law and the UN Charter which is binding on all UN members."

“And we will continue to defend the Falklands’ right to self-determination in all international forums and have called on the EU to respect the democratic rights of the Falkland Islands.”

He added: “The concern is any suggestion that EU states would recognise Argentina’s claims on the Falklands, which they have now clarified is incorrect.”

The islands were the subject of a bloody conflict in 1982 which claimed the lives of 255 British servicemen, three islanders and 649 Argentine personnel.

In a statement, deputy chair of the Falkland Islands Legislative Assembly Teslyn Barkman said: “Myself and the other members of the Falkland Islands Legislative Assembly would like to be clear that this news from Brussels changes nothing. The EU themselves have issued a statement to say that they have not changed their views and positions concerning the Falklands."

“However, we are hugely disappointed that it has been decided, without input from the Falkland Islands or the UK Government, to refer to our Islands by a name that has been given to us by our aggressive and hostile neighbour, Argentina."

“The UK Government have swiftly responded to this news, supporting our rights to self-determination and we encourage EU members to respect the wishes of the Falkland Islanders and refer to us by our proper name – the Falkland Islands as they have done historically."

“We remain clear that discussions on our sovereignty are non-negotiable. Falkland Islanders are clear in their desire to remain as a British Overseas Territory and our commitment to being part of the UK family, living in freedom under the government of our choice."

“We urge EU member states and others to respect our wishes and our right to self-determination, which is a fundamental right enshrined in article one of the Charter of the United Nations.”

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