Falkland Islands: A Look at the Disputed Territory

A decades-old dispute between Argentina and the United Kingdom has put the remote Falkland Islands, which the Argentines call the Malvinas, back in the news just in time for the 30th anniversary of the Falkland Islands War. Those who follow Argentine politics say it has to do with pre-election opinion poll numbers for President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. Perhaps the biggest reason it’s on both nation’s minds is a recent Edison Investment Research study suggesting that Britain could receive billions of dollars from oil recovered around the English-speaking UK Overseas Territory.

Kirchner lodged an official complaint with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last week over the UK’s decision to send “nuclear weapons” to the Falkland Islands in defiance of a treaty that seeks to establish a nuclear-free zone in the South Atlantic. Britain argues that its sovereignty over the islands predates the existence of the state of Argentina and it will endure so long as the islanders wish to remain British.

The Falkland Islands remain an agricultural society that is heavily dependent on tourism. Grumblings of further dispute between the two nations are troublesome for the Islands’ welcoming image. The Falkland Islands are situated in the South Atlantic some 400 miles east of the South American mainland and 850 miles north of the Antarctic Circle. East and West Falkland have a landmass comparable to that of Connecticut and are home to fewer than 3,000 islanders.

With nearly 500,000 sheep in the Falklands, there are roughly 163 sheep per person. There are also more than 500,000 breeding pairs of penguins camped out along the rugged coast.

A sign is seen on a side road warning locals to steer clear from land mines which were laid in the Falkland Islands. Most of the 150 minefields were laid around the capital Stanley when Argentine forces landed there in April 1982 to claim the islands taken by the British in 1833. The British armed forces defeated the Argentines 10 weeks later in a brutal war that killed 650 Argentines and 250 British. (REUTERS / Enrique Marcarian)

Islanders Fran Biggs (L) and Liz Pointing jog by Moody Brooke, in the Falklands Islands’ capital Stanley. (REUTERS / Enrique Marcarian)

A group of Canadian oil workers walk past the Upland Goose hotel in the Falkland Islands capital Stanley. The Falkland Islands today is a prosperous place – a far cry from the freezing sheep outpost portrayed in the 1982 war over the islands between Argentina and Britain. If major oil deposits are found offshore, as many predict, the Falklands will need more people and resources to keep up with the bonanza. (REUTERS / Enrique Marcarian)

A group of islanders walk by Rossroad, the main street in the Falkland Islands’ capital Stanley. (REUTERS / Enrique Marcarian)

Relatives of Argentine soldiers who perished in the 1982 Falkland War (Guerra de Las Malvinas) between Argentina and Britain stand on a gravesite during a commemoration ceremony at the Darwin cemetery for the first time since the conflict, on the Falkland Islands, October 3, 2009. (Reuters)

Visitors in a vehicle tour Port Stanley, capital of the Falkland Islands. (REUTERS / Enrique Marcarian)

A group of visitors tours the streets of Port Stanley, capital of the Falkland Islands. (REUTERS / Enrique Marcarian)

Sheep graze in Port Howard. (REUTERS / Enrique Marcarian)

Islanders Katrina Lowe and Katie Bonner (R) walk their dogs in Port Howard, West Falklands Islands. Port Howard is the gateway to West Falkland, an Island with hundreds of thousands of sheep and 150 humans, where general stores open for a few hours a week and people make their own spare parts. It is a unique way of life that both the Falkland Island government and island families aim to preserve as centuries-old traditions die out in the comparatively bustling East Falkland. (REUTERS / Enrique Marcarian)

Sheep graze at the Goose Green settlement next to a minefield laid by Argentine Forces during the 1982 Falklands War. (REUTERS / Enrique Marcarian)

Elephant seals rest on the beach at Sea Lion Island off the coast of The Falkland Islands. (REUTERS / Dylan Martinez)

A King Penguin crosses in front of a flock of Gentoo Penguins near Port Stanley. (REUTERS / Gary Clement)

A group of elephant seals lie on a beach near Port Stanley. (REUTERS / Gary Clement)

A Maersk supply boat loads up before sailing to the Ocean Guardian semi-submersible drilling rig. (REUTERS / Gary Clement)

Children walk next to the Liberation Monument at Port Stanley, capital of the Falklands Islands. (REUTERS / Enrique Marcarian)

Gentoo penguins (Pygoscelis papua) return to land after a day at sea looking for food near New Haven, in the Falklands Islands. (REUTERS / Enrique Marcarian)

Gentoo penguins (Pygoscelis papua) return to land after a day at sea looking for food near New Haven, in the Falklands Islands. (REUTERS / Enrique Marcarian)

Visitors look at commemorative plaques for British soldiers who died during the 1982 Falklands War (Guerra de Las Malvinas) in Mount Longdon, near Port Stanley. The chance to visit battlefields and contemplate the tragedy of war has been one factor driving higher tourism in the Falklands. (REUTERS / Enrique Marcarian)

Islanders Dylan Stephenson (L) and Aiden Smith ride motorbikes past rusty remains of a kitchen used by Argentine troops during the 1982 Falklands War. (REUTERS / Enrique Marcarian)

Islander Tony Heethman (L) takes a picture of visitors next to commemorative plaques for British soldiers who died during the 1982 Falklands War. (REUTERS / Enrique Marcarian)

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