Pope Francis dragged into Falklands row as activist hands him sign
Former Archbishop of Buenos Aires pulled into Argentinian dispute with the UK
Pope Francis holds a placard reading: ‘It’s time for dialogue between Argentina and the United Kingdom for Falklands.’ A spokesman said: ‘The Holy Father did not even realise he had this object in his hands.’ Photograph: L’Osservatore Romano/Pool Photo via AP
Pope Francis was sucked into Argentina’s dispute with the UK over the Falkland Islands after an activist thrust a sign in his hands calling for dialogue between the two countries and President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner jumped on the opportunity to rekindle the fight.
Ms Fernandez tweeted a photo of the pope, the former Archbishop of Buenos Aires, holding the sign, which is part of a campaign marking the 50th anniversary of a United Nations resolution calling for the two countries to hold talks over the dispute.
The pope swiftly quashed the attempt to link him to the cause after his spokesman said the small poster was handed over during a weekly public gathering when lots of people give him things and he had no idea what the item was.
“The Holy Father did not even realise he had this object in his hands. He has discovered this just now after seeing the photograph,” Father Ciro Benedettini said. “The picture was taken during the general audience when many people give items to the Holy Father.”
Ms Fernandez has persistently lobbied the pope to intervene on her country’s behalf but the Vatican has been clear it doesn’t wish to involve itself in the dispute.
Tensions between the two countries culminated in war in 1982 after Argentine forces invaded the islands. More recently, the discovery of oil off the archipelago’s shores prompted the South American nation to file criminal charges against oil companies operating in the area.
The Argentine foreign ministry said in April it called in the UK ambassador to explain plans to raise defence spending on the islands to £180 million (€252 million) over the next 10 years. Ms Fernandez said an announcement by Premier Oil and Falklands Oil and Gas in April of a discovery of oil was a “provocation”.
She also said that while the islands, which Argentina calls the Malvinas, will be Argentine sooner or later, the South American nation isn’t a threat to the UK. or the Falklands. Argentina will continue to press for constructive dialogue to resolve the dispute, she said. – (Bloomberg)