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Chapter Three DEADLOCKAGAIN Later we shall examine the nature ofthe military planning undertaken in Argentina over the first months of 1982: for the moment all that is important to note is that very few people were involved in the planning process and very few knew that the work was being undertaken. For the Junta the threat offorce was not to be used explicitly to extract concessions from the British. This would risk alerting London and giving it time to reinforce defences. The military option was to be developed while Britain was given afinalopportunity to resolve the dispute in a peaceful manner. If anything, diplomacy would facilitate the eventual use of force. It would be legitimized through Argentina gaining the backing of international organizations as it demonstrated British intransigence. Even Foreign Minister Costa Mendez was unaware of the planning exercise while he prepared his diplomatic initiative in January. He knew only that the Junta intended to increase tension if the British failed to offer serious concessions. His plan was to attempt to get the negotiating framework modified to add urgency to the discussions. This would be raised at the talks scheduled for New York in February 1982. Assuming little progress was made, the case would be presented to the United Nations Decolonization Committee in August, where a sympathetic hearing could be expected, and then on to the General Assembly meeting in November. This would help Argentina garner international support before 3 January 1983, the 150th anniversary of the British takeover of the Malvinas.1 When Costa Mendez was eventually informed in February of the 23 Context military plans being drawn up to recover the Islands he responded cautiously. He suggested that a working group be set up to examine the scheme and explore alternatives. However, the President required total confidentiality. He wanted to see the outcome of the next round of talks.2 Preparing a military plan did not preclude diplomatic action. Costa Mendez did not change his own approach. His ideas for a series of intensifying diplomatic measures culminating at the UN General Assembly were eventually presented to the Junta in mid-March, just before events pushed the military options to the fore.3 What he did request on hearing of the military policy was a say over any operations that individual institutions in Argentina were intending to mount in the South Atlantic area in the coming months. He sought to have a final say over exacdy the sort of activity that triggered the confrontation in March.4 In January the first diplomatic step was a firm restatement of the Argentine position and proposals for new negotiating procedures. This took the form of a message to Britain on 27 January. It warned that unless sovereignty was transferred the dispute between the two countries could not end. It called for new negotiations towards this objective to be concluded 'within a reasonable period of time and without procrastination '. There should be no more 'delays or dilatory arguments'. On the assumption that the question of sovereignty over the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands must be solved peacefully, finally and rapidly in the interests of the parties to the dispute and of all others concerned in its solution, the Argentine Government proposes, in order to expedite matters, the establishment of a permanent negotiating commission, which will meet during the first week of every month, alternately, in each capital and will be charged with maintaining continuity and impetus in the negotiations, not allowing them to be relegated to desultory meetings without clear objectives or concrete results ... The commission would have one year's duration. It could be discontinued at any time by either party, with prior notice.5 This proposal was sent with a specific request that the Foreign Office 24 Deadlock Again should assess its feasibility at both governmental and parliamentary levels before the next round of talks.6 Meanwhile, helping to convey the hardening Argentine stance, there was a series of newspaper articles in Buenos Aires. The most notable of these were by a well-informed journalist, Iglesias Rouco, writing in LaPrensa. His first, on 24 January, anticipated the presentation of the new negotiating proposals to Britain, and in particular the precise time-limit that would be attached. After discussing the international context, in such a way as to suggest that a tough stand by Argentina might be supported by the United States and Europe, he warned that 'this year ... a military attempt to resolve the dispute cannot be...


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