23 Dec 2012

Argentina rejects British renaming of Antarctica

5:59 am on 23 December 2012

The British ambassador to Argentina has been summoned to explain to officials in Buenos Aires why part of Antarctica has been renamed in honour of the Queen.

John Freeman was handed a formal protest note "strongly rejecting" Britain's claim to a piece of land known as the British Antarctic Territory.

The southern section was named Queen Elizabeth Land by Foreign Secretary William Hague on Tuesday.

The note claimed the area was part of the Argentine Antarctic sector.

It stated that the Argentine government "strongly rejected" Britain's right to rename the area.

The British Foreign Office says Queen Elizabeth Land which, at 272,000 square km, is almost twice the size of the United Kingdom, was previously unnamed.

Britain first staked claim to the British Antarctic Territory in 1908. However, both Argentina and Chile insist they have prior claims to large areas of the same land.

The BBC reports the British Antarctic Survey has three scientific research bases in the territory and HMS Protector. a Royal Navy ice patrol vessel, is stationed in the area for part of the year.

The 1959 Antarctic Treaty outlawed the establishment of new territorial claims in the Antarctic, but did not reject existing claims.

The Foreign Office said on Tuesday there was a precedent for naming parts of the continent after members of the royal family.