Tensions are growing between the British and Argentine governments over rights to oil recently found in the Falklands seabed.
The Falklands are considered to be British Overseas Territories by Westminster, however Buenos Aires believes that the UK is illegally occupying the Falklands. Whilst events are not expected to escalate for now, Westminster has sent naval ships to the area, including the HMS York.
In response, Buenos Aires has placed new controls on ships passing through its waters. Ships will now need a permit to go through Argentine waters on their way to the Falklands. The main reason for this is seen to be over oil in the area. Local geologists have announced that they believe there are substantial oil reserves in the area. As a result, the UK has sent a drilling rig to the area.
Further to this, Argentine government ministers have said that the controls have been brought in specifically to protect “resources” in the area.
Despite Argentine hostilities, Gordon Brown believes drilling for oil will start on Sunday as originally planned. The situation has been escalated further by Argentina announcing that it is looking into working with other countries to stop British ships going in to more South American waters than just their own.
Tensions over the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands have remained since the end of the Falklands war 28 years ago.
With the discovery of oil in the area, the dispute is now economic as well territorial. The controls placed on ships in Argentine waters by Buenos Aires will result in extra costs for foreign firms wanting to drill in the area. Complications could increase if Buenos Aires places harsher limits on sailing in its waters. The Falkland Islands are in British waters, but the surrounding territory is claimed by Argentina.
Despite both Westminster and Buenos Aires wanting to have a “dialogue” on the issue, the Argentine government is standing firm. They claim that they will take “all legal means to restrict the access to the islands from the continent”. Hostilities between the two governments have increased to levels not seen since the Falklands War when Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister.
Mining rights for oil are currently held by the British firms Desire Petroleum and Falkland Oil and Gas. With so much stake, both governments are hoping to come to a compromise on the issue sooner rather than later.