STANLEY, Malvinas Islands, March 11 (Xinhua) -- The islanders of Malvinas, known as the Falklands in Britain, on Monday voted overwhelmingly in a referendum to keep the disputed territory under British rule.
However, analysts said the referendum will resolve nothing and could exacerbate the situation as Britain is likely to use the result as an excuse to dodge sovereignty talks.
According to official results, 99.8 percent of residents voted in favor of the status quo -- an internally self-governing British territory. Voter turnout was as high as 92 percent.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague welcomed the result, saying it demonstrates more clearly than ever the islanders' wish to remain an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom.
But in the eyes of Argentina, which claims sovereignty over the islands, the referendum was merely diplomatic propaganda and it has little value in the field of international law.
"The referendum will not end the dispute. It can only end with a dialogue on the issue between the two parties that can resolve it, those being Argentina and the United Kingdom," said Argentine ambassador to London Alicia Castro.
The ambassador's opinion was echoed by international affairs expert Emilio Cardenas, Argentina's former ambassador to the United Nations.
Cardenas said the referendum will not change the need for Argentina and Britain to sit down and negotiate the issue of sovereignty of the islands.
He said the referendum is a smokescreen whose result is a foregone conclusion.
"They think that with this they can strengthen their position" to silence the arguments of Argentina in the sovereignty dispute, said Cardenas.
Analysts also feared that the referendum could increase the risk that Argentina will become more aggressive toward the islanders, in particular, against their economic welfare.
The referendum, designed to strengthen Britain's control over the islands, was held at a time when Argentina steps up its calls for negotiations over the islands' sovereignty while gathering support in South America, Africa and Asia.
Latin American states have united in supporting Argentina, and even Washington has suggested the possibility of playing some facilitating role for Argentina over the issue.
The inhabitants of the Malvinas are not indigenous or colonized. They are an imported British population, thus lacking the right to self-determination, said Cardenas.
The sovereignty dispute over the islands dates back to 1820, when Argentina took over the islands from Spain and stationed troops there. But in 1833 the islands were occupied by Britain, which claimed them as a colony administered by a London-appointed governor.
Argentina has never given up its demand of the islands. In 1966, Argentina and Britain began negotiations to resolve the dispute, but talks broke down in 1982.
Buenos Aires tried to retake the islands by force later that year, sparking a 74-day Malvinas War, but only to find its forces expelled in the end.
Though the two countries resumed diplomatic relations in February 1990, dispute over the Malvinas continued and even exacerbated due to the booming oil exploration in the islands' waters in recent years.