Falklands to hold sovereignty referendum

Island vote: Falklands announces vote plans a week after Argentina vows to sue British explorer

Bill Lehane

 12 June 2012 14:54 GMT

Island government says residents want to remain British as tensions remain high

The Falkland Islands is to hold a referendum in 2013 on its “political status” in a bid to end the dispute with Argentina over the archipelago’s sovereignty in which exploration has latterly taken centre stage.

The islands’ government made the announcement ahead of the anniversary on marking 30 years since the end of Argentina’s 74-day occupation in 1982.

It said it wanted to send a firm message to Argentina that islanders want to remain British with the vote, which is to take place sometime in the first half of next year, according to BBC reports.

Gavin Short, chairman of the islands’ legislative assembly, said residents had “no desire to be ruled by the government in Buenos Aires”, predicting the majority would favour remaining a self-governing overseas territory of the UK.

UK prime minister David Cameron said Britain would support the result of the vote on the islands.

Last week, Argentina vowed to initiate legal action against Rockhopper Exploration, Desire Petroleum, Falkland Oil & Gas and Borders & Southern Petroleum for what it describes as “illegal and clandestine activities” in drilling around the islands.

The most prominent find to date has been Rockhopper’s Sea Lion discovery, which Gaffney, Cline & Associates believes may hold gross contingent resources of 385.9 million barrels.

Rockhopper hopes to develop with a floating production, storage and offloading vessel that could achieve first oil as soon as 2016.

Argentina claims sovereignty over the islands it calls the Malvinas, and wants the UK to negotiate over their rule of the South Atlantic archipelago, which has lasted since 1833.