Britain will protect the people of the disputed Falkland Islands for as long as they want to remain British citizens, Defence Secretary Liam Fox said.
Fox, speaking at the annual conference of the Conservative Party, paid tribute to Margaret Thatcher who led Britain during a 10-week war after Argentina invaded the South Atlantic islands in 1982.
“Next year is the 30th anniversary of the victory for self-determination in the Falklands,” Fox told delegates, Reuters reports.
“A victory made possible by the resolve another Conservative prime minister, Margaret Thatcher. And we will continue to guarantee the security of the Falklands,” added Fox, a darling of the right of the party.
Argentina often reiterates its claim to sovereignty over the islands. Known as Las Malvinas by Argentines, diplomatic tensions over the islands have increased in recent years over offshore oil exploration.
British oil group Rockhopper Exploration Plc last month unveiled plans for a $2 billion (1.29 billion pound) investment in the Falklands, seeking to transform the remote territory into a major oil production centre.
Fox said Britain wanted closer ties with Argentina.
“This is not the 1980s. We are now working towards healthier relations with the Argentinians,” Fox said.
“But one thing is unchanged: for as long as the people of the Falklands choose to, they are, and always will be, British,” he added.