Commentary (The Times)

Falklands: “Transfer of Falklands sovereignty proposed” (Nick Ridley visit & leaseback)

Document type: Press
Source: The Times , 26 November 1980 (p1)
Editorial comments:
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 432
Themes: Defence (Falklands)

Transfer of Falklands sovereignty proposed

By Michael Frenchman

Britain is suggesting that the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands be transferred to Argentina, according to a report reaching London last night. The islands, which are in the South Atlantic some 450 miles off the coast of Argentina, have been the subject of a 100-year-old dispute between Argentina and Britain.

This is said to be one of a number of options which are being put to the islanders by Mr Nicholas Ridley, Minister of State in the Foreign Office, responsible for Latin America, who is now in the Falklands.

According to Air Commodore B. G. Frow, of the Falkland Island Office in London, Mr Ridley addressed a meeting of the islands' Sheepowners Association and told them that Argentina was getting impatient at the lack of progress in the attempts to solve the problem.

Mr Ridley suggested that it would be in the islanders' best interest if they agreed to a transfer of sovereignty. The other options are a 25-year freeze over the sovereignty issue, and a lease of the islands similar to that in force for Hongkong.

Air Commodore Frow said that the lease-back solution, which has. been raised before, is the one which is preferred by Whitehall.

A spokesman at the Foreign Office said last night that he could neither confirm nor deny the reports as they were awaiting a report themselves on the results of Mr Ridley's talks.

He continued: 'There are no proposals as such. The Government has been considering since the April exploratory talks with the Argentine Republic how best to achieve a solution of this difficult problem which would be acceptable to all parties. Mr Ridley is now consulting the islanders to establish their views on a basis for further talks with the Argentines.'

When asked if Britain intended to cede the sovereignty of the islands to Argentina the spokesman said they were looking for a solution which everyone could live with.

He added: 'The important thing is the wishes of the islanders. If they agree, we can explore the possible basis for a solution. However, no solution can be finally agreed without the endorsement of the islanders and Parliament.'

The island's Legislative Council is to meet to discuss the propositions. This is the first time that such a package of alternatives has been put to the islanders publicly.

During his meeting with the Sheepowners, Mr Ridley said that another option would be to break off talks altogether but he felt that this might antagonize the Argentine Government