Rishi Sunak has criticised the EU for a “regrettable choice of words” after it appeared to endorse the Argentine name for the Falkland Islands.
The prime minister’s official spokesman said, in his view, it would have been “entirely unacceptable for the EU to question the Falkland Islanders’ right to decide their own future”.
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A diplomatic row risked breaking out after the EU referred to the disputed territory as Islas Malvinas in a declaration that was agreed at a recent summit.
The declaration – agreed at the European Union and the Community of Latin American and the Caribbean states (Celac) earlier this week – read: “Regarding the question of sovereignty over the Islas Malvinas/Falkland Islands, the European Union took note of Celac’s historical position based on the importance of dialogue and respect for international law in the peaceful solution of disputes.”
Mr Sunak’s spokesman said the EU had now “clarified that their position on the Falklands has not changed”.
“To be clear, the Falkland Islands are British, that was the choice of the islanders themselves,” they said.
“The EU has rightly now clarified that their position on the Falklands has not changed after their regrettable choice of words.
“And just as a reminder, in the 2013 referendum, 99.8% of islanders voted to be part of the UK family. It’s a position supported by international law and the UN Charter which is binding on all UN members.
“And we will continue to defend the Falklands’ right to self-determination in all international forums and have called on the EU to respect the democratic rights of the Falkland Islands.”
He added: “The concern is any suggestion that EU states would recognise Argentina’s claims on the Falklands, which they have now clarified is incorrect.”
Both the UK and Argentina lay claim to the Falkland Islands, fighting a war in 1982 that culminated in the deaths of 255 British service personnel and 649 Argentines.
The 40th anniversary of the war was marked last year.
The Falkland Islands is officially classified as a British Overseas Territory, a position the EU reaffirmed in the 2009 Lisbon Treaty.
Argentina has long called for talks over the sovereignty of the archipelago – a demand the British government has refused since 1982.
In a statement following the row, the EU foreign policy service clarified the bloc’s position, telling several newspapers: “The EU member states have not changed their views and positions concerning the Falklands/Islas Malvinas.
“The EU is not in a situation to express any position on the Falklands/Islas Malvinas, as there is not any council discussion on this matter.”