Drilling got underway this week off the still-disputed Falkland Islands, as an oil platform belonging to Desire Petroleum, a British company founded in 1996 for the specific purpose of oil and gas exploration in the North Falkland Basin, began operations on Feb. 22. The drilling, which is expected to last 30 days, marks the culmination of weeks of intense sparring between the Argentine and British governments over oil rights and shipping lanes in the South Atlantic.
As the exploration progresses, the diplomatic battle between Argentina and the U.K. rages on. Tensions have been mounting since Feb. 16, when Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner announced that ships bound for the Falkland Islands that planned to traverse Argentine waters or use Argentine ports would be required to seek prior approval from the Argentine government. The formal decree came after weeks of behind-the-scenes negotiations in which Argentina -- claiming sovereignty over "Las Islas Malvinas," as they are known locally -- pleaded with the British government to not drill on what it considers Argentine territory.
Since the escalation of the dispute, the Argentine government has gone on the diplomatic offensive. On Feb. 22, Kirchner used a meeting of regional leaders in Quintana Roo, Mexico, to drum up support for its long-standing territorial claim, with the presidents of Bolivia, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and traditional rival Chile all obliging. Speaking on behalf of the 33 nations in attendance, which included countries throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, Mexican President Felipe Calderón denounced Britain's actions. Not content with only regional support, Argentine Foreign Affairs Minister Jorge Taiana will address the issue when he meets with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon in New York on Feb. 24 at the U.N.