Britain will not invite Argentine President Cristina Fernandez to Margaret Thatcher’s funeral next week in a snub likely to deepen a long-running diplomatic dispute over the Falkland Islands.
Thatcher (87), who died on Monday, led Britain at the time of the 1982 Falklands war ordering her armed forces to repel an Argentine invasion of the contested South Atlantic archipelago which Argentina calls Las Malvinas.
Just over 30 years later, memories of the conflict remain raw and Fernandez has mounted a campaign to renegotiate the islands’ sovereignty, lobbying Pope Francis on the issue and rejecting a referendum last month in which Falkland residents voted to remain a British Overseas Territory.
A government source said that every country with whom Britain enjoys ‘normal’ diplomatic relations was being invited to Wednesday’s funeral, but Thatcher’s family had objected to Fernandez attending.
“It’s about adhering to her family’s wishes,” the source said.
A government spokesman said Argentina’s ambassador to Britain would be invited, and that was in keeping with protocol.
Thatcher’s children Mark and Carol said they felt it would be ‘inappropriate’ for anyone from Argentina to be there after government officials floated the idea.
Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman brushed off the apparent snub. “It does not matter to me to be invited to a place where I don’t want to go,” he said. “It is another provocation. The woman died, let the family mourn her in peace.”
Britain Prime Minister David Cameron’s office made it clear on Thursday that invitations will be sent far and wide.“Around 200 states, territories and international organisations are being invited to send an official representative to the funeral service,” a spokesman said.
“We have invited those countries and institutions with whom we have normal diplomatic relations.”
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