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Falkland Islands, History

East Falkland, Lucius Cary, Dutch navigator, English navigator, joint agreement

John Davis, an English navigator and explorer, may have been the first European to sight the Falklands, in 1592. In 1600 a Dutch navigator, Sebald Van Weert, visited the islands and called them the Sebald Islands, a name that still appears on some Dutch maps. Captain John Strong, an Englishman, navigated the sound between East and West Falkland in 1690 and named it Falkland Sound after Lucius Cary, 2nd Viscount Falkland. The English name for the islands was then taken from that of the sound. In 1764 French colonists from Saint-Malo (hence the name Malvinas) established a settlement on East Falkland, and the following year the British settled on West Falkland. In 1770 Spain bought out the French, and in 1774 the British left the islands. In 1816 Argentina overthrew Spanish rule and in 1820 claimed sovereignty of the islands. But in 1833 Britain took control of the islands. Argentina continued to claim the islands, however.

Negotiations to settle the sovereignty dispute between Argentina and Britain began in the mid-1960s at the United Nations. The talks were still in progress in April 1982, when Argentine forces invaded and occupied the islands for about ten weeks in an attempt to settle the issue by force. They were defeated by a British task force and formally surrendered on June 14. Argentina continued to claim the islands; the British government refused to participate in further negotiations, but the two nations resumed diplomatic relations in 1990.

In 1992 seismologists discovered significant petroleum and natural gas reserves in the Falklands' territorial waters. In September 1995 Argentina and Britain signed a joint agreement covering oil and gas exploration in a specially designated zone southwest of the disputed Falkland Islands. The two countries agreed to establish a commission that would oversee the licensing of companies seeking to bid on rights to explore the waters, the division of royalties, and the implementation of worker safety and environmental protection measures. The next month, Argentina began auctioning oil exploration licenses for areas just outside the disputed waters, between Argentina and the Falklands.



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