'Falklands Islands will be ours within 20 years': Argentina claims 'fanatical' Britons will be forced to hand disputed colony back
Foreign minister Hector Timerman said Britain only wants Falklands oilHas refused to meet Foreign Secretary William Hague during London visitIslanders due to hold referendum in March on whether to remain British

Ian Drury


16:31 GMT, 5 February 2013



00:42 GMT, 6 February 2013

War of words: Hector Timerman, seen being driven away from the Houses of Parliament, has said Britain is only interested in the Falklands because of potential oil reserves

War of words: Hector Timerman compared Falkland Islanders to illegal Israeli settlers in the West Bank

A senior Argentine politician has sparked outrage by claiming his country will run the Falklands within 20 years.

Hector Timerman, the country’s foreign minister, also compared the islanders to illegal Israeli settlers in the West Bank.

Mr Timerman escalated the war of words over sovereignty during his first visit to London. Although he ruled out another military invasion of the islands, he went on to denounce the British as ‘fanatics’ who were only interested in the windswept South Atlantic outcrop because of its potentially lucrative offshore oil reserves.

In an interview, Mr Timerman made his
controversial predication of future Argentine sovereignty over the
Falklands, saying: ‘I don’t think it will take another 20 years.’

He added: ‘I think that the world is going through a process of understanding more and more that this is a colonial issue.’

Mr Timerman also snubbed a member of
the Falklands government who tried to present him with a letter
dismissing Argentina’s claim over the islands, and then refused to
attend a meeting with Foreign Secretary William Hague because members of
the island parliament would be there.

Mr Timerman made his unprecedented
visit to the UK to discuss issues relating to the Falklands a month
before around 1,500 islanders hold their first vote on whether they want
to remain British.

The historic referendum, set for March 10-11 and
which will be overseen by international observers, is expected to send a
clear message to Argentina to keep its hands off.

Argentina's Foreign Minister Hector Timerman

Hector Timerman, left, has refused to meet William Hague, right, because the British politician insisted on a representative of the Falkland islanders being present.

Hector Timerman, left, has refused to meet William Hague, right, because the British politician insisted on a representative of the Falkland islanders being present

But during heated exchanges in
Westminster, Mr Timerman claimed the vote over the future of the islands
– known in Argentina as Las Malvinas – was meaningless.

He said: ‘The
self-determination referendum doesn’t apply to the Malvinas. It is a
colonised territory.’

He compared the situation to Israel’s
breach of UN resolutions by building homes on Palestinian territory in
the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Mr Timerman said: ‘A few weeks ago,
Britain complained to Israel because of building in the settlements and
said that was against the peace process.

'It is strange that you behave
one way in the Malvinas but complain about the settlements.

‘The people living in the Malvinas are
subjects, they are not native.

'It is a population that came after the
invasion of the territory. It is like asking settlers in the West Bank
if they want to be Israelis or Palestinians. It does not make sense.’

Mr Timerman said Argentina has been trying to negotiate a peaceful solution to the dispute for the past 180 years

Mr Timerman said they has been trying to negotiate a peaceful solution to the dispute for the past 180 years

The Argentine politician said the March referendum on whether the islanders wanted to remain British was meaningless

The Argentine politician said a referendum on whether the islanders want to remain British is meaningless

Diplomatic friction between Britain
and Argentina has increased since 2010 when oil exploration was
authorised in the waters around the islands, which have been under
British control since 1833.

Mr Timerman added yesterday: ‘I think
the fanatics are maybe in the UK. [Britain] is using the people living
in the islands for political reasons and to have access to oil and
natural resources which belong to the Argentine people.’

Labour MP Chris Bryant said Mr
Timerman’s comments were ‘offensive’ and Lord O’Neill, a Labour peer,
blasted Buenos Aires for using ‘megaphone diplomacy’.

Dick Sawle, a member of the Falkland
Islands parliament, had tried to present a letter to Mr Timerman but was
brushed aside. The letter stated: ‘The referendum next month will make
it very clear that we do not wish to be ruled by Argentina. No amount of
harassment and intimidation by your government against our community
will change this fact.’

Last year the Argentine government
accused the UK of ‘militarising’ the South Atlantic. Britain currently
has four warships, four RAF fighter-bombers and around 1,200 troops on
the islands.