BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Argentina's foreign minister refused Thursday to accept British terms for a bilateral meeting in London next week. Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague had declined Hector Timerman's request for a one-on-one meeting, and insisted on bringing in members of the Falkland Islands Government, which Argentina does not recognize as legitimate.
Lawmakers from the disputed South Atlantic islands were flying up to London, just on the chance for talks with Argentina. Timerman ruled that out and said he laments that Hague "can't meet without the supervision of the colonists from the Malvinas," islands Argentines say Britain stole from them 180 years ago.
He invited Hague to meet with him in Buenos Aires, where he might "appreciate that our country is a true democracy where my fellow foreign ministers can freely meet with whomever they wish without being pressured or having their presence conditioned on meetings that they haven't asked for and don't interest them."
Britain's foreign office told The Associated Press Thursday night that Hague's offer still stands. Islanders will vote "yes" or "no" in a March referendum on whether to continue being governed as they are — a British Overseas Territory with a directly-elected assembly, supervised by a governor appointed by the Queen. A large British military contingent that ended an Argentine military occupation in 1982 has remained ever since, supporting the government and making possible an economy based on fishing revenue, tourism and oil exploration.
A resounding "yes" vote is expected to enable islanders to show the world that their self-determination is to remain part of the British realm. They tried to make the same point by delivering a letter to President Cristina Fernandez during her presentation last June at the United Nation's colonization committee meeting. Fernandez refused to accept the letter.
The Falkland Islanders had been looking forward to a "full and frank exchange of views," its government announced before Timerman declined Hague's terms. "We demand that our rights be respected, and that we be left in peace to choose our own future and to develop our country for our children and generations to come. It is only right that he should hear this directly from us, as well as from Mr. Hague," the Falklands government announced.