Argentina rejects islands referendum
Updated: 2013-03-13 09:34
Argentina dismissed on Monday a Malvinas Islands referendum on the status of the disputed South Atlantic archipelago as a "maneuver with no legal value".
The Malvinas Islands are known as the Falklands in the UK.
A house in Camber, in front of Stanley, Malvinas Islands. The islanders of Malvinas, known as the Falklands in Britain, on Monday voted overwhelmingly in a referendum to keep the disputed territory under British rule. [Photo/Agencies]
Alicia Castro, Argentina's ambassador to Britain, said of the residents: "They are British. We respect their way of life, their identity. We respect that they want to continue being British, but the territory they inhabit is not British."
Her comments to La Red radio in Buenos Aires came as the islanders cast ballots on whether they want the Malvinas Islands to remain a self-governed British overseas territory.
High turnout rate
Residents of the islands voted almost unanimously to stay under British rule in the referendum, which was aimed at winning global sympathy as Argentina intensifies its sovereignty claim. The official count on Monday showed 99.8 percent of islanders voting in favor of remaining a British overseas territory in the two-day poll. There were three "no" votes out of about 1,500 cast.
Turnout was 92 percent among the 1,649 Malvinas-born and long-term residents registered to vote.
On Monday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry called on Argentina and the UK to resolve the political status of the Malvinas Islands in accordance with a UN resolution.
The Malvinas issue is "leftover from colonialism", Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a news conference in Beijing on Monday.
"China's position on the issue is consistent, and China will continue supporting Argentina's claim to the Malvinas Islands," she said.
Beijing expects the two countries to properly resolve the issue through dialogue in accordance with United Nations resolutions, Hua said.
Local politicians hope the resounding "yes" vote will help them lobby support abroad, including in the United States, which takes no stand on the sovereignty issue.
Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez has pressured the UK to negotiate the sovereignty of the islands, something London refuses to do unless the islanders request talks.
Most Latin American countries and many other developing nations have voiced support for Argentina, which has stepped up its demands since London-listed companies started drilling for oil and natural gas off the Malvinas' craggy coastline.
The question in the referendum asked the islanders if they wish the Malvinas Islands to retain their current political status as an overseas territory of the UK.
Under the "Yes" column, the text stated that the islanders can review their status at any time.
In the "No" column, the article made it clear that "a substantial no vote would encourage the Argentine government's sovereignty claim", adding that "a large no vote would weaken our chances of attaining more independence some day".
AFP - China Daily - Reuters - Xinhua