May 23, 2013
UK Foreign Office: 'flights are a matter for the islanders to consider'
After President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner announced her intentions to reinstate regular flights between Buenos Aires and the Malvinas Islands, the British Foreign Office said any discussion of the flights was a matter for the islands' government to consider.
"If Argentina is keen to promote air links between the continent and the islands, it should reconsider its ban on charter flights through its airspace.
"(Argentina's) current policy of seeking to isolate and dictate to the Malvinas Islanders, from the harassment of fishing vessels to the closure of shipping ports is indefensible and will not succeed," a spokeswoman said in a statement.
"It would be deeply disappointing and utterly unjustifiable if Argentina put pressure on this flight to be suspended."
Fernandez de Kirchner, who nationalized Aerolineas Argentinas in 2008, has previously threatened to consider withdrawing permission for the Lan flight to pass through Argentine airspace because of Britain's refusual to negotiate the sovereignty of the islands.
Thursday's announcement appears to mark a change in her government's strategy.
London has refused to start talks demanded by Buenos Aires on the islands' sovereignty unless the roughly 3,000 Malvinas residents call for them, which they show no signs of doing.
The Lan flights currently stop once a month in Rio Gallegos, a town in southern Argentina, a measure that was agreed upon to allow Argentine war veterans and families of servicemen killed in the conflict to visit the islands.
Diplomatic tensions over the Malvinas have increased in recent years over offshore oil exploration by British companies off the islands' coast.
In recent months, officials in London and Buenos Aires have engaged in an increasingly testy war of words.
Britain summoned Argentina's envoy on Wednesday to explain a minister's proposed boycott of British goods and a decision to stop two cruise ships from docking in the country earlier this week.
Argentina complained to the United Nations this month over what it called Britain's "militarization" of the South Atlantic and both countries have traded accusations of "colonialism" over their sovereignty claim on the Malvinas.
Nearly 30 years after the war, the islands remain a potent national symbol in Argentina, although the decision to land in the territory on April 2, 1982, is widely seen as a mistake by the discredited military dictatorship ruling at the time.
More than 900 troops, most of them Argentine, were killed in the 10-week war that started on April 2, 1982.
Fernandez de Kirchner has repeatedly ruled out the use of military force to press Argentina's claim over the islands.