BUENOS AIRES – Argentina’s government on Thursday accused five oil companies of conducting illegal exploration work off the British-ruled Falkland Islands, which Buenos Aires claims as its own.
The cited companies are Britain’s Rockhopper Exploration plc, Premier Oil plc and Falkland Oil and Gas Ltd; Houston-based Noble Energy Inc.; and Italy’s Edison International SpA, Argentina’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Those companies, grouped as a consortium, hired a semisubmersible rig that began exploring the North Falklands Basin last month in preparation for the drilling six wells, the ministry added.
In announcing the start of legal action, President Cristina Fernandez accused the companies of “carrying out hydrocarbon exploration activities on Argentina’s continental shelf without obtaining the corresponding authorization from the Energy Secretariat.”
The secretary for Matters Relating to the Malvinas (as the islands are known by Latin Americans), Daniel Filmus, accused the consortium of violating Argentine law and UN resolutions that urge both countries “not to introduce unilateral modifications” while a solution to the sovereignty dispute remains pending.
On Thursday, Argentina’s government summoned British Ambassador John Freeman to inform him about the legal action against the oil companies and to demand explanations for documents provided by former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden showing that Britain tasked one of its spy agencies with thwarting Argentina’s push for sovereignty over the Falklands.
A war over the islands took place in 1982 after the landing of Argentine troops in the South Atlantic archipelago.
Fighting officially began on May 1 of that year with the arrival of a British task force and ended 45 days later with the surrender of the Argentines.
The conflict claimed nearly 1,000 lives – some 700 Argentines and 255 British soldiers and sailors.
Britain has ruled the Falklands since 1833, but Buenos Aires insists the islands rightfully belong to Argentina.