St. John’s Antigua- Government, by way of a press statement issued Wednesday, disassociated Antigua & Barbuda from statements made in the wake of the recent Eleventh ALBA summit, which were carried in the local, regional and international press, about a ban on Falkland Islands-flagged ships.
A statement from the Argentine Ministry of Foreign Affairs said several Caribbean states and Nicaragua announced, last weekend, that they will bar, from their ports, any vessel flying the Falkland Islands flag. The declaration is similar to the Mercosur (South American trading bloc) ban imposed last December.
It quoted the Argentine Foreign Affairs Minister Hector Timmerman saying it was significant that all Latin American and Caribbean countries support the “legitimate rights of Argentina over the Malvinas.
“Today, Caracas is witness that Malvinas has become a cause of the entire Latin America and the Caribbean and shows Argentina is not alone in its legitimate claims,” Timmerman said.
The announcement which was picked up the media, including the Associated Press (AP), CBS, CNN and Washington Post, caused concern at home and further afield.
On the ground, Leader of the Opposition Lester Bird chastised Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer for going with the flow in Venezuela on February 4, and said the decision would have major economic repercussions for the country.
But in a brief statement issued yesterday, government sought to disassociate the twin-island nation from the reported decision of ALBA, saying its stance on the 180-year-old dispute between Argentina and Britain over the Falkland Islands is consistent with the Caribbean Community (Caricom).
The release said that position is to advocate for “a peaceful and definitive solution to such dispute, pursuant to the relevant pronouncements of the United Nations Organization (UNO) and of the Organization of American States (OAS).”
Further, the release said, “Antigua and Barbuda has never supported any call for the banning of flagships from any country in the region and therefore disassociates itself from any statement regarding the banning of ships carrying the flag of the Falklands (Malvinas) from entering our ports.”
There was no indication on what steps, if any, the Foreign Affairs Ministry would take to address the reports regionally and internationally.
The release instead referenced the provisions of United Nations General Assembly Resolution No 31/49.
That resolution requests the governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom “to consolidate the current process of dialogue and co-operation through the resumption of negotiations in order to find a peaceful solution to the sovereignty dispute as soon as possible.”
The Falkland Islands are self-governing British Overseas Territories to which Argentina has laid claim of sovereignty. Argentina calls the islands Las Malvinas.
The long-running dispute has included a bloody conflict in 1982.
The announcement coming out of the ALBA summit contradicted regional reports from the recent UK-Caribbean Forum held in Grenada, which said Caribbean heads of governments and ministers agreed to “to support the principle and the right to self determination for all peoples, including the Falkland Islanders, recognising the historical importance of self-determination in the political development of the Caribbean, and its core status as an internationally agreed principle under the United Nations Charter.”
Formed in 2004, ALBA – the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas – is a hemispheric integration programme conceptualised by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. It is meant to counter the US-led idea of a Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA).
The ALBA nations include Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Ecuador, Nicaragua, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Venezuela.
Representatives of Haiti, Suriname and St Lucia attended the event as “participant observers.”