June 26, 2022

Falkland Islands

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Falkland Islands Map

The Falkland Islands have had a complex history since their discovery, with France, Britain, Spain and Argentina all claiming possession and establishing as well as abandoning settlements on the islands. The Spanish government’s claim was continued by Argentina after the latter’s independence in 1816 and the independence war in 1817, until 1833 when the United Kingdom took by force control of the islands, following the destruction of the Argentine settlement at Puerto Soledad by the American sloop USS Lexington (December 28, 1831). Argentina has continued to claim sovereignty over the islands, and the dispute was used by the military junta dictatorship as an excuse to invade and briefly occupy the islands before being defeated in the two-month-long undeclared Falklands War in 1982 by a United Kingdom task force which returned the islands to British control.

The islands were uninhabited when they were first discovered by European explorers. There is disputed evidence of prior settlement by humans, based on the existence of the Falkland Island fox, or Warrah, on the islands, as well as a scattering of undated artifacts including arrowheads and the remains of a canoe. It is thought this canid was brought to the island by humans, although it may have reached the islands by itself via a land bridge during the last ice age.

The first European explorer widely credited with sighting the islands is Sebald de Weert, a Dutch sailor, in 1600. Although several English and Spanish historians maintain their own explorers discovered the islands earlier, some older maps, particularly Dutch ones, used the name ‘Sebald Islands’, after de Weert. However, the islands appear on numerous Spanish and other maps beginning in the 1520s.

In January 1690, English sailor John Strong, captain of the Welfare, was heading for Puerto Deseado (in Argentina), but driven off course by contrary winds, he reached the Sebald Islands instead and landed at Bold Cove. He sailed between the two principal islands and called the passage “Falkland Channel” (now Falkland Sound), after Anthony Cary, 5th Viscount Falkland (1659-1694), who as Commissioner of the Admiralty had financed the expedition and who later became First Lord of the Admiralty. From this body of water the island group later took its collective English name.

The first settlement on the Falkland Islands, called Port Saint Louis, was founded by the French navigator and military commander Louis Antoine de Bougainville in 1764 on Berkeley Sound, in present-day Port Louis, East Falkland.

Unaware of the French presence, in January 1765, English captain John Byron explored and claimed Saunders Island, at the western end of the group, where he named the harbour of Port Egmont, and sailed near other islands, which he also claimed for King George III of Great Britain. A British settlement was built at Port Egmont in 1766. Also in 1766, Spain acquired the French colony, and after assuming effective control in 1767, placed the islands under a governor subordinate to Buenos Aires. Spain attacked Port Egmont, ending the British presence there in 1770, but Britain returned in 1771 and remained until 1774. Upon her withdrawal in 1774 Britain left behind a plaque asserting her claims, but from then on Spain ruled unchallenged, maintaining a settlement until 1811. On leaving in 1811, Spain, too, left behind a plaque asserting her claims.

When Argentina declared its independence from Spain in 1816, it laid claim to the islands according to the uti possidetis principle, as they had been under the administrative jurisdiction of the Viceroyalty of the Rio de la Plata. Following a proclamation of annexation in 1820, actual occupation began in 1826 with the foundation of a settlement and a penal colony. The settlement was destroyed by United States warship in 1831 after the Argentinian governor of the islands Luis Vernet seized U.S. seal hunting ships during a dispute over fishing rights. They left behind escaped prisoners and pirates. In November 1832, Argentina sent another governor who was killed in a mutiny. In January 1833, British forces returned, took control, repatriated the remainder of the Argentine settlement, and began to repopulate the islands with British citizens.

The Royal Navy built a base at Stanley, and the islands became a strategic point for navigation around Cape Horn. The World War I naval battle, the Battle of Falkland Islands took place in December 1914, with a British victory over the Germans. During World War II, Stanley served as a Royal Navy station and serviced ships which took part in the Battle of the River Plate.

Sovereignty over the islands became an issue again in the latter half of the 20th century. Argentina, which had never renounced its claim to the islands, saw the creation of the United Nations as an opportunity to present its case before the rest of the world. In 1945, upon signing the UN Charter, Argentina stated that it reserved its right to sovereignty of the islands, as well as its right to recover them. The United Kingdom responded in turn by stating that, as an essential precondition for the fulfilment of UN Resolution 1514, regarding the de-colonization of all territories still under foreign occupation, the Falklanders first had to vote for the British withdrawal at a referendum to be held on the issue.

Talks between British and Argentine foreign missions took place in the 1960s, but failed to come to any meaningful conclusion. A major sticking point in all the negotiations was the 2,000 inhabitants of mainly British descent who preferred that the islands remained British territory.

On April 2, 1982, Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands and other British territories in the South Atlantic (South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands), encouraged in part by the United Kingdom’s reduction in military capacity in the South Atlantic and as a diversion from poor economic performance at home. The invasion was condemned by the United Nations Security Council, although world reaction ranged from support in the Latin American countries (with the exception of Chile), to opposition in Europe, the Commonwealth, and eventually the United States. The British sent a large expeditionary force to retake the islands leading to the Falklands War. After a short but fierce naval and air war, the British landed at San Carlos Water on May 21 and a land war followed until the Argentinean forces surrendered on June 14.

Following the war, the British increased their military presence on the islands, constructing RAF Mount Pleasant and increasing the military garrison. Falkland Islanders were also granted full British citizenship. Although the UK and Argentina since resumed diplomatic relations in 1989, no further negotiations on sovereignty have taken place.   source Wikipedia


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