The road to war

IssueJune 2007


The archipelago Britain calls the Falkland Islands lies 300 miles off Argentina in the South Atlantic.
The islands are known in Argentina as the Malvinas.
Argentina has asserted sovereignty over the islands since the British invasion of 1833.


  • 2 April 1982: Argentina invades Falkland/Malvinas islands.
  • 3 April: The UN Security Council Resolution 502 calls for troops on both sides to withdraw and negotiations for a peaceful solution.
  • 5 April onwards: British naval task force sets sail for the South Atlantic.
  • 8 April: US Secretary of State Alexander Haig begins shuttle mediation.
  • 17 April: Talks break down. The main effect of the US-brokered talks has been to give the British armada time to get to the South Atlantic.
  • 26 April: Thatcher says time for diplomacy is running out. US declares support for Britain.
  • May: President Belaunde Terry of Peru presents a peace proposal to Argentine President Leopoldo Galtieri, who gives preliminary acceptance with three minor modifications. Hours after the Peruvian peace plan is accepted, but before formal ratification by Argentine government, the British submarine HMS Conqueror torpedoes Argentine cruiser General Belgrano: 321 sailors and two civilians die.
    The British government claims to have received news of Peruvian peace plan only after sinking of Belgrano.
  • 3 May: British government, definitely knowing of Peruvian peace plan, orders HMS Conqueror to continue offensive operations, and to return to Belgrano to attack more Argentine ships. Argentine junta rejects Peruvian peace proposal.
  • 4 May: Argentininian aircraft sink HMS Sheffield. 20 sailors die and full scale war becomes almost inevitable.

The rejected Peruvian peace plan called for:
1) a ceasefire with a simultaneous Argentine withdrawal from the islands and a pullback of the British fleet;
2) an end to economic sanctions against Argentina imposed by Britain's supporters; and
3) establishment of an interim US-Brazilian-West German-Peruvian authority for the Falklands while the two disputing countries negotiated ultimate sovereignty over the territory.

Topics: Falklands