BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – Argentina has invited Britain's Latin America minister to stop by on his way to the Falkland Islands for ceremonies marking the ouster of Argentine occupiers 30 years ago, saying Friday that it is time to talk.
Jeremy Browne will represent the British government when the overseas territory holds "Liberation Day" ceremonies on the islands that Argentina still claims. Speeches and a parade are planned to honor British forces for freeing them from a 74-day Argentine military occupation. More than 900 lives were lost in the war, which ended on June 14, 1982.
Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman wrote London saying Browne is welcome to swing through Buenos Aires on his way south, and he quoted Sir Winston Churchill as saying it takes courage "to sit down and listen." Argentina has long called for Britain to discuss the status of the islands.
"We are always ready to speak for what we believe is just, but we also have the same disposition to sit down and listen," Timerman wrote, and suggested that Browne might even meet with members of the nearly 250,000-strong British community in Argentina.
Argentina considers the islands to be an illegal colonial holdover, seized in 1833 and held by British military force practically ever since. Britain disputes Argentina's original claim to the islands and says that in any case, they are now a self-governing territory, not a colony.
The United Kingdom's foreign office said "Browne is grateful for the invitation" and wants a stronger partnership with Argentina, but his schedule is full.
"The only issue that we will not discuss is the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands, until and unless the Islanders wish us to do so," the statement said.
President Cristina Fernandez is expected in New York next week to attend a session of the U.N.'s decolonization committees, where she is expected to accuse Britain of violating U.N. resolutions on the islands. Argentina succeeded in scheduling the meeting for June 14.
Browne on Thursday announced that two representatives from the Falkland Islands legislative assembly and a group of schoolchildren from the islands will travel to New York and attempt to talk with her.
"It would be interesting for her if she were to meet with them, because she would get a powerful sense that the position of the Falkland Islanders is not the creation of the British government," Brown said Thursday.
Associated Press Writer David Stringer in London contributed to this report.