Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague told Argentina to stop trying to intimidate the inhabitants of the Falklands, amid a war of words 30 years after the disputed islands sparked a real war.
"If it (Argentina) is genuinely interested in progress it should stop these attempts to intimidate a civilian population," Hague said in comments carried by The Times on Saturday.
Buenos Aires "should agree to discuss how, as democracies, the Falklands, Britain and Argentina can work together in the South Atlantic neighbourhood in our common interest," he added.
The strong words were the latest exchange in a long dispute over the Falklands, internally self-governing islands located 400 nautical miles from Argentina.
They have been held by Britain since 1833 but are still claimed by Argentina, where they are known as the Malvinas, despite its defeat in the 74-day war fought between the two countries in 1982.
Tensions began rising in 2010, when London authorised oil prospecting around the islands, and have spiralled in recent weeks as Argentina's neighbours joined the dispute.
In December, South American trading bloc Mercosur agreed to close its ports to ships flying the Falklands flag.
Hague in his comments in the Times reiterated the right of the 3,000 Falkland islanders to self-determination.
"The future of the Falkland Islands is about people: their freedom to determine their own future and to develop their own community and economy. Thirty years after the Argentine invasion, their right to self-determination remains, and will always remain, the cornerstone of our policy," he stressed.
Many living on the islands are the ninth-generation there and say they are "Falkland Islanders first and British second," he added.
Hague went on to say that there were areas where London and Buenos Aires could cooperate over the Falklands, such as fish-stocks management, hydrocarbon exploration and strengthening air and sea links between the Falklands and South America.
While stating that "we are happy to talk," about the Falklands issue he deplored the "less constructive approach" of successive Argentine governments.
The British foreign minister, who ended a trip to Brazil on Thursday, acknowledged the Mercosur statement banning vessels that fly the Falkland Islands flag.
However he said he saw "no regional appetite for joining Argentina in its attempts to damage the islands? economy or target the livelihoods of islanders."
Protesters marched on the British embassy in Buenos Aires on Friday, burning the Union Jack, and demanding Argentina snap diplomatic ties with London.
British Prime Minister David Cameron sparked fury there after he called Argentina's attitude towards the South Atlantic islands "colonialist."
The 74-day war for control of the Falklands started on April 2, 1982 and killed 649 Argentines and 255 British. It also forced Argentina to withdraw from the islands in the south Atlantic Ocean.
Source: AFP Global Edition