Britain rejects role for Argentinian pope in Falklands sovereignty dispute

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 22 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 21 June, 2013, 11:00pm


Religion and politics should not be mixed in the case of the Falkland Islands dispute between Britain and Argentina, according to top officials from the British side.

Argentina President Cristina Kirchner this year asked Argentinian-born Pope Francis to mediate in the dispute which led to war between the two in 1982.

I certainly share the view that religion is unlikely to help solve this

But a top Falklands politician and Britain's UN envoy shrugged off the idea when asked about such mediation on the sidelines of an annual UN debate over the islands.

"The last thing we need is religion inserted in this," Michael Summers, a veteran Falklands legislator who lobbied the UN decolonisation committee for the islands government, said.

"I certainly share the view that religion is unlikely to help solve this," added Britain's UN ambassador, Mark Lyall Grant.

Even Argentinian Foreign Minister Hector Timerman did not explicitly embrace Vatican intervention, although he said popes had "intervened in the past in several issues related to politics and geopolitics". He referred, however, to 1493 decrees by Pope Alexander VI granting Spain rights to the Americas.

The UN decolonisation committee voted for an annual resolution calling for a negotiated settlement to the dispute, but the meeting brought the two sides no closer together.

Timerman decried as British "propaganda" a referendum held in the Falklands in March in which islanders voted by 99.8 per cent to remain British.

Summers called Argentina "the aspiring colonial power" and again said the decolonisation committee should visit the Falklands.

Argentina says the dispute is a sovereignty conflict that can be settled only by London and Buenos Aires. The British government says it will not discuss the islands' future without the approval of its inhabitants.