Britain 'disappointed' after Argentina snubs Falklands talks

LONDON (AFP) - Britain said on Friday it was disappointed that Argentina had rejected an invitation to meet Falkland Islands officials during Foreign Minister Hector Timerman's planned visit to London next week.

Timerman said in Buenos Aires on Thursday that he did not want a "third party" in the talks, insisting the United Nations regards the dispute over the islands in the South Atlantic Ocean as a bilateral issue.

Britain's Foreign Office had said it hoped Timerman, British Foreign Secretary William Hague and representatives from the Legislative Assembly of the Falklands would be able to meet.

"We are disappointed that the meeting has been cancelled," a Foreign Office spokeswoman said.

"We are open to discuss bilateral issues and want to develop a constructive bilateral relationship with Argentina." Timerman had said Hague's invitation meant he was refusing to hold a bilateral meeting, and warned of consequences, including withholding cooperation with Britain on the UN Security Council.

"The international community does not recognise a third party in this dispute," Timerman said.

"It's a shame that you would object to holding a bilateral meeting.

"This decision will surely reduce Argentine's interest in working with the UK in the G20 and the UN Security Council, as well as on nuclear proliferation issues, human trafficking, money laundering linked to drug crimes, investment, trade, human rights and many others."

Timerman told Hague: "It is not necessary that you keep trying to put together meetings during my visit to London. Leave the job to our efficient embassy." Instead, Timerman invited Hague to visit Argentina.

Britain has held the islands in the South Atlantic since 1833, but Argentine forces invaded in 1982, prompting then British prime minister Margaret Thatcher to send a naval task force to reclaim control in a brief but bloody war.

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