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Falklands referendum: Islanders to vote on sovereignty

The Falkland Islands will hold a referendum on whether they want to remain part of Britain, in a bid to settle a dispute with Argentina over the territory's sovereignty.

Falkland islands referendum 12 06 2012Enlarge
The Falklands government says the referendum is intended to show the world that islanders want to remain part of the UK. (MARTIN BERNETTI/AFP/Getty Images)

The Falkland Islands are to hold a referendum on their sovereignty, the territory's government announced today.

The vote will be held in the first half of 2013.

It is designed to send "a strong message to the outside world" that islanders want to be governed by Britain and not Argentina, according to the chairman of the Falklands Legislative Assembly, Gavin Short.

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The islands, known to Argentinians as Las Malvinas, are the subject of a long-running dispute between London and Buenos Aires. 

Short claimed that the islands' 3,000 residents overwhelmingly wish to remain part of the UK, despite "misleading rhetoric" from the Argentine government suggesting the contrary.

"We are holding this referendum not because we have any doubts about who we are and what future we want," his statement reads, "but to show the world just how very certain we are about that."

The BBC reported that the announcement was welcomed by UK Prime Minister David Cameron, who said that the right to self-determination was guaranteed under the United Nations charter and promised that Britain would "respect and defend" the islanders' decision.

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Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has called repeatedly for negotiations on the sovereignty of the islands, which she describes as a "colonial enclave."

Speaking in April, on the anniversary of the start of the Falklands War, she said Argentina wanted "dialogue between both countries to discuss the sovereignty issue, respecting the interests of the islanders."

The dispute over the islands has become increasingly bitter in recent months, GlobalPost's Girish Gupta reported earlier this year, especially since British firms began carrying out deep-sea oil exploration nearby – fuelling speculation that the area contains large and valuable oil fields.

More from GlobalPost: British investors see profit in Falklands despite sovereignty row

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/120612/falkland-islands-referendum-sovereignty-uk-argentina