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Falkland Islands

Volume 32: debated on Wednesday 24 November 1982

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13.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs which countries of the Commonwealth voted against the Argentine-sponsored resolution concerning the Falkland Islands at the United Nations; and if he will make a statement.

Apart from the United Kingdom, 10 Commonwealth countries voted against this draft resolution. They were Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Dominica, Fiji, Gambia, Malawi, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Sri Lanka. A further 18 Commonwealth countries abstained. The principles to which we attach importance are widely supported in the Commonwealth.

Has my right hon. Friend written to the Foreign Secretaries of the Commonwealth countries that supported Britain in the United Nations, thanking them for their support? Will he write to those countries that abstained or voted against Britain, explaining our position more clearly to them? Will he place the matter on the agenda of the Commonwealth conference to be held next year in India, so that the lessons of territorial aggression are learnt throughout the Commonwealth?

The answer to my hon. Friend's last question is "No, Sir". One must appreciate that well over two-thirds of the Commonwealth countries refused to support Argentina, and that was gratifying. Throughout the whole story I have expressed my gratitude to the Commonwealth countries for their support. All of them, whatever their views, know this Government's view, and the matter should be left there.

As 90 countries voted against us, 50 abstained and only 12 supported us, should not the Government, as well as having a short-term policy for the Falkland Islands, begin to spell out a medium and long-term policy? It is impossible for the present position to continue. The matter may be raised in the United Nations again.

I have explained our policy. It is too soon to ask the islanders to consider the long-term future. That time will come when they have been able to repair the damage that they have suffered and when life has become more normal again. That will be the time to pursue the long-term strategy, and we shall do that in conjunction with the islanders.