British crown colony in the South Atlantic, 480 km/300 mi east of the Straits of Magellan; area 12,173 sq km/4,700 sq mi, made up of two main islands: East Falkland (6,760 sq km/2,610 sq mi) and West Falkland (5,413 sq km/2,090 sq mi); population (2001 est) 2,400. The capital is Stanley, the main port, which was extended and modernized in 1984. The main economic activities are sheep farming and wool processing, fishing and the production of alginates (used as dyes and as a food additive) from seaweed beds, and fishing. The islands are heavily dependent on imports, especially fuels, foodstuffs, textiles, hardware, and machinery. The accessibility of the islands was greatly improved by the completion of Mount Pleasant Airport in 1985.
History The first European to visit the islands was Englishman John Davis in 1592; at the end of the 17th century they were named after Lord Falkland, treasurer of the British navy. West Falkland was settled by the French in 1764. The first British settlers arrived in 1765; Spain bought out a French settlement in 1766, and the British were ejected (1770–71), but British sovereignty was never ceded, and from 1833, when a few Argentines were expelled, British settlement was continuous.
Argentina asserts its succession to the Spanish claim to the ‘Islas Malvinas’, but the inhabitants oppose cession. Occupied by Argentina in April 1982, the islands were recaptured by British military forces in May–June of the same year. In April 1990 Argentina's congress declared the Falkland Islands and other British-held South Atlantic islands part of the new Argentine province of Tierra del Fuego. In September 1995 the UK and Argentina signed an agreement on oil rights in waters surrounding the Falkland Islands. In May 1999 Falkland Islanders agreed to hold their first direct talks with Argentina since the 1982 war. The talks would cover economic cooperation, air links, and visits by Argentine citizens. Under an agreement between the UK and Argentina signed in July 1999, Argentine passport holders could visit the Falkland Islands for the first time since the 1982 war.
Features In addition to the two main islands, there are about 200 small islands, all with wild scenery and rich bird life; Mount Usborne, on East Falkland, is the highest point (705 m/2,312 ft).
Government The governor is advised by an executive council, and a mainly elected legislative council. Administered with the Falklands, but separate dependencies of the UK, are South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands; see also British Antarctic Territory.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Falkland Islands: Self-Determination
Thatcher, Margaret Hilda: Statement on the Falkland Islands
Thatcher, Margaret Hilda: Sinking of General Belgrano
Thatcher, Margaret Hilda: Surrender of Port Stanley, Falkland Islands
Chronicle of the Falkland Islands History and War
Falkland Islands – flag
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