Argentina refuses British talks because Falkland islanders are present

A high-level meeting between Britain and Argentina's foreign ministers has been cancelled because Buenos Aires learned Falkland Islanders would also be invited.

Argentine foreign minister Hector Timerman had been due to meet William Hague in London to discuss the ever-increasing tension over the disputed island, but he angrily cancelled the meeting after realising representatives of the Falkland Islands government would also be present.

In a harsh and sarcastic statement, the foreign minister said he was sorry Hague could not meet "without the supervision of the colonists from the Malvinas [the Argentine term for the Falklands]".

He added: "My fellow foreign ministers can freely meet with whomever they wish without being pressured or having their presence conditioned on meetings that they haven't asked for and don't interest them".

The presence of Falkland Islanders at the meeting is hardly surprising, given Britain's claim on the territory is the product of their stated wishes.

The prime minister said the decision was "disappointing".

A Foreign Office spokesperson said: "We note that Mr Timerman has publicly rejected the foreign secretary’s offer of a meeting whilst he is in the UK.

"We remain concerned about the Argentine government's behaviour towards the Falkland Islanders, so it is right and proper that they are involved in the part of the meeting that concerns the Islands.

"We have made that clear to the Argentine Government in recent exchanges, and the foreign secretary's offer of a meeting on these terms still stands."

In a statement released before Timerman cancelled the meeting assembly members Dick Sawle and Jan Cheek said they were going to London to exchange views rather than reach a deal.

"Indeed we look forward to giving Mr Timerman some very direct messages on the unacceptability of Argentina's actions against the Falkland Islands in recent years," the assembly said in a statement.

"We demand that our rights be respected, and that we be left in peace to choose our own future and to develop our country for our children and generations to come.

"It is only right that he should hear this directly from us, as well as from Mr Hague."

The Argentine government, which has whipped up popular sentiment over the islands in the last year, refuses to recognise the Falklands government and is unlikely to do so on the back of the forthcoming referendum, where islanders will almost certainly vote to remain British.