Argentina's government celebrated on Monday a decision by a UN commission expanding its maritime territory in the South Atlantic Ocean by 35% to include the disputed Falkland Islands and beyond. The Argentine foreign ministry says its waters have increased by 0.66 million square miles and the decision will be key in its dispute with Britain over the islands. Argentina lost a brief, bloody 1982 war with Britain after Argentine troops seized the South Atlantic archipelago. The UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf sided with Argentina earlier this month, ratifying the country's 2009 report fixing the limit of its territory at 200 to 350 miles from its coast. The foreign minister calls it "a historic occasion" that "reaffirms our sovereignty rights over the resources of our continental shelf."
Oil exploration is already pumping millions of dollars into the Falkland Islands economy. Many islanders remain concerned about Argentina's claim as well as the potential for problems from rapid change brought by the new industry. The UN commission's finding included the caveat that there is an unresolved diplomatic dispute between Argentina and Britain over the islands. The Falklands are self-governing, but Britain is responsible for its defense and foreign affairs. The British government says islanders cannot be forced to accept Argentine sovereignty against their will. The Falkland Islands government says it is seeking clarification from the British government on "what, if any, decisions have been made, and what implications there may be" for the territory. Further: "Our understanding has always been that the UN would not make any determination on applications for continental shelf extension in areas where there are competing claims." (Read more Argentina stories.)