Senior diplomats from Argentina and Britain on Friday traded accusations over the contested Malvinas Islands (called by Britain as Falkland Islands) at separate press conferences held at the UN Headquarters in New York.
Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman, who gave the first press conference, urged Britain to comply with UN resolutions, sit down at the negotiating table and "refrain from this military escalation that they are carrying out in the South Atlantic with the introduction of the latest generation of warships and warplanes, and dispatching a nuclear submarine with the capacity to unload nuclear weapons."
The islands off Argentina's eastern coast, called the Falklands by the British and the Malvinas by Argentineans, have been at the center of the decades-old feud between the two countries.
Tensions have been on the rise between Britain and Argentina as the former announced recently that it would explore for oil in the surrounding waters, as the 30th anniversary of a 1982 war that saw Argentina defeated by Britain is approaching,
Timerman said Argentina firmly believes "that problems between countries must be resolved in a peaceful manner, on (the) basis of peaceful dialogue" and that all parties should "refrain from using arms."
British Permanent Representative to the UN Mark Lyall Grant, who held the second press conference on Friday, called Timerman's statement about British militarization of the islands "manifestly absurd."
"Before 1982 there was a minimal defense presence on the Falkland Islands," he said. "It is only because Argentina illegally invaded the Falkland Islands in 1982 that since then we have had to increase our defense posture. Nothing has changed in that defense posture in recent months and recent years."
Grant defended British presence in the islands, saying Britain has been there since 1765 "before Argentina existed", and the civilians have neither been implanted nor expelled by Britain since that time.
"It is unfortunate that Argentina changed its constitution in the 1990s to make it incumbent upon the Argentinean government to obtain sovereignty," said Grant. "If the Falkland Islands themselves ask for a change in the status, then we would do everything we could to help them achieve it."
Earlier on Friday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, while meeting with the Argentine foreign minister, called upon Argentina and Britain to prevent "an escalation" of tensions over the disputed islets and to "resolve differences peacefully and through dialogue."
"The secretary-general expressed concern about the increasingly strong exchanges between the governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom on this issue," said a readout issued here by Ban's spokesman. "He expressed the hope that the governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom will avoid an escalation of this dispute and resolve differences peacefully and through dialogue."
On Tuesday, Argentine President Cristina Fernandez accused Britain of militarizing the Southern Atlantic, vowing to seek UN help to remove British troops from the region.
The president said it is disturbing Britain maintains a military presence in the waters around the islands and the British deployment risks triggering war games in the region.
She said her government would present once again its arguments to the UN De-colonizing Committee in June, and expressed the belief that with these arguments the sovereignty of the Malvinas would be given to Argentina.