The UK government has condemned the recent Argentine order to seize $156m (£99m) of drilling equipment and assets from oil exploring companies around the Falkland islands as a ‘flagrant and unacceptable campaign to strangle the islands’ hydrocarbons industry”.
Last week, Tierra del Fuego judge Lilian Herraez ordered Argentine authorities to seize boats and other assets worth $156m from five companies drilling for oil in the waters around the Falkland Islands.
In response, Foreign Office Minister Hugo Swire said:
“In the last few days we have seen the latest example of the Argentine authorities’ flagrant and unacceptable campaign to strangle the Falkland Islands hydrocarbons industry.
“We have been absolutely clear that Argentine domestic law does not apply in the Falkland Islands, nor in the waters that surround them. This politically motivated decision to target company assets is a wholly unacceptable attempt to exercise extra-territorial jurisdiction, and has no legal justification whatsoever.
“This action, aimed at British and international oil and gas companies, has dangerous implications for global business. The government of Argentina should refrain from unjustified provocations of this kind.
“The Falkland Islands’ plans to develop their hydrocarbons industry, with the support and expertise of companies from around the world, is a legitimate commercial venture. The Falkland Islanders have every right to decide their own future, including through the development of their economy. As ever, we stand behind them and are confident that the international community will continue to resist these Argentine threats.”
Three of the five companies, Premier Oil Plc, Rockhopper Exploration Plc, Falkland Oil and Gas Ltd, are British, while Noble Energy Inc is American and Edison International Spa is French, but based in Italy.
None of the companies have assets in Argentina, so it is not clear how the measure will be implemented.
The judge’s decision is a continuation of the war of words between Argentina and the UK over the sovereignty of the islands, which the Argentinians call Las Malvinas. Argentina claims the islands because of their location 300 miles off the Argentine coast, but Britain claims to have held the islands since before Argentina became a country. In a referendum of the islands’ population in 2013, more than 90% of the islanders voted to remain a UK overseas territory.