Published June 10, 2011
The Obama administration once again has sided with Argentina -- and by default, against Britain -- in the ongoing dispute over the island chain at the center of a 1982 war.
In a move one British conservative analyst called "hugely insulting to Britain," the Organization of American States earlier this week adopted a declaration calling for negotiations between the United Kingdom and Argentina over the "sovereignty" of the Falkland Islands. While the U.S. delegation did not speak in support of the measure, it ultimately joined a consensus adopting it.
However, Britain does not consider the sovereignty in question. After the British fended off an Argentine invasion of the nearby islands in 1982 -- a war in which hundreds died on both sides -- the government continues to assert control over the Falklands and grant islanders British citizenship.
Britain has resisted international calls for the two nations to negotiate the issue -- which makes the U.S. position all the more peculiar.
Noting that President Obama just returned from a visit to London where he cited the U.S.-U.K. "special relationship," Heritage Foundation analyst Nile Gardiner said the U.S. should at least stay neutral on the Falkland issue.
"British sovereignty over the islands is not an issue for negotiation. ... This is a slap in the face for America's closest friend and ally," he said, accusing the administration of siding with Venezuela and others against its friend.
"This is a bizarre foreign policy," he added. Gardiner is the director of the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom, whose namesake was prime minister during the Falklands War.
The Obama administration made clear in early 2010 that it would endorse calls for talks over the islands. At a Buenos Aires news conference with Argentina's president in March 2010, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she agreed with Argentina that the two nations should "sit down and resolve the issues between them."
From there, the U.S. implicitly backed an OAS document calling for talks last June and again Tuesday at a conference in El Salvador. The latest declaration, which refers to the islands as the Malvinas Islands, calls for exploring "all possible avenues towards a peaceful settlement of the dispute" and resuming sovereignty negotiations "as soon as possible."
It was accompanied by some tough words toward Britain. In an OAS press release, Argentine foreign minister Hector Timerman said: "Unfortunately, Britain still declines to resume bilateral dialogue, in violation not only of repeated resolutions of the United Nations and this Organization." Timerman called for a "peaceful settlement to the dispute."
In the wake of the adoption, the British government quietly asserted its sovereignty over the Falkland Islands while downplaying the U.S. position -- stressing that the Obama administration continues to recognize British control of the territory.
"The longstanding U.S. position is unchanged. The U.S. recognizes the U.K.'s administration of the Falkland Islands," a British Embassy representative told FoxNews.com. "We're in regular touch with the U.S. on this issue, as on so many issues, and we expect that dialogue to continue."
The government on the Falkland Islands expressed disappointment with the OAS declaration. According to a report in MercoPress, Falkland officials issued a statement saying they "regret that this issue should once again be raised on the regional stage" and support the standing British position that "the issue of sovereignty is non-negotiable."