May 21, 2013
UK risks Argentine ire with South Atlantic marine reserve
Britain said on Monday it was creating one of the world's biggest marine reserves around the cluster of the South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands claimed by Argentina, a move that may fuel tensions already rising before the 30th anniversary of the Malvinas war.
The declaration of a reserve covering more than 1 million sq km (386,000 sq miles) of ocean around the remote British territories of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands is designed to protect the fragile environment in an area teeming with penguins, seals and seabirds.
But Britain's move, which puts severe restrictions on fishing in the area, could anger Buenos Aires which claims sovereignty over South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands as well as the Malvinas Islands which lie about 1,000 km (620 miles) to the west of them.
In 1982, Britain sent a force to reclaim the Malvinas Islands and South Georgia after Argentine forces occupied them. About 650 Argentine and 255 British troops died in the 10-week conflict.
Tensions between Britain and Argentina have risen again this year as the 30th anniversary of the war approaches and as British companies drill for oil off the Malvinas.
Argentina complained to the United Nations this month over what it called Britain's "militarisation" of the South Atlantic and both countries have traded accusations of "colonialism" over their claim on the Falklands.
On Monday, provincial authorities in Argentina stopped two British-linked cruise ships from docking in Tierra del Fuego, raising the temperature further.
The creation of the marine reserve was announced by Nigel Haywood, governor of the Malvinas and Queen Elizabeth's representative in South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, who signed the measure into law.
"The declaration of a marine protected area around South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands clearly demonstrates the UK's effective environmental stewardship of this unique and remote part of the world," British Foreign Office Minister Henry Bellingham said in an accompanying statement.