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03/04/2012

Peace Trumpets Needed

 30 years on, a British veteran hands back a silver trumpet to an Argentine veteran after it was confiscated at the end of the Falklands Islands war.

Yesterday was 30 years since the start of the Falklands Islands conflict, following invasion of a then arguably unwanted British Overseas Territory by the military junta ruling Argentina at that time. There's a lot of rhetoric out there coming from the Argentinian government and, in turn, the British government and the Falkland Islanders, plus the odd celebrity-come-revolutionary here and there

I think beyond it all, it is clear a negotiated solution - that meets the needs of the Falkland Islanders whilst satisfying some of the more reasonable Argentine territorial claims - can be the only way forward. The Falkland Islands eventually having the same union with Argentina, with guarantees on political and cultural autonomy, as the Faroe Islands do with Denmark seems workable. But the Argentine state needs to work to build trust with the Falkland Islanders to reach this resolution, not constantly threaten their existence. And if the British government are to properly pursue a just outcome for the Falkland Islanders, they must also do the same for the Chagos Islanders.

But this will take time, because as last Friday's Guardian editorial observed, the Argentine military invasion has ultimately slowed this inevitable process down - from a point where Britain was probably more than willing to negotiate a settlement in 1981, to 31 years later where no meaningful dialogue exists whatsoever. I guess that's what killing hundreds of each other's young men does to two countries, and a stark reminder of why war is never really a solution.

But away from the politics, it is encouraging to read that there are some veterans leading grassroots efforts to build peace between Argentina and Britain by getting their children to basically become pen pals through social networking. Tony Banks, spearheading the project, says:

"When we arrived in the Falklands, we had never spoken to an Argentine before, and the kids that the Argentine junta sent to fight had never seen or met a Brit prior to their reaching the islands.

Technology changes this, and it made sense to me to try to start dialogue and discussion between those young people who are most affected by the legacy of the 1982 conflict - the children of veterans.

These conversations are not meant to be political or turn into a debate on whether the Falklands should be British, but rather an attempt to bypass the politicians and show that we have more in common and are better friends than enemies."

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