Uruguay considers that British control over the Falklands or Malvinas Islands constitutes a “colonial enclave”, which is “inadmissible”, and that is why Falklands’ flagged vessels are barred from entering Uruguayan ports, said on Friday Foreign Affairs minister Luis Almagro.
“If we are consistent with our position that the Malvinas constitute the only remaining European colonial enclave in Latin America, we definitively must have a position regarding those vessels coming to Uruguay flying those colours” added Almagro during a brief exchange with the press.
The Uruguayan official said the barring of vessels flying the Malvinas flag is “in abidance with a formal declaration from Unasur, Union of South American Nations”.
Almagro also confirmed he would be meeting with British ambassador Patrick Mullee, who had requested an interview, “to straighten out two or three things which somehow we advanced during lunch a couple of days ago with the European Union ambassadors”.
The incident surfaced on Thursday when Uruguayan President Jose Mujica said that Falklands’ flagged vessels are barred from entering Uruguayan ports. The statement was further confirmed with a brief statement posted in the Executive portal saying the measure is in support of Argentina’s claim over the Malvinas Islands, although the decision was not extensive to English flagged vessels. The release added that Uruguay was not acting under pressure from Argentina.
“I think I will be meeting with Ambassador Mullee “most probably it will take place next Wednesday since Monday and Tuesday we have the Mercosur summit in Montevideo”, said Almagro who added that “we are in permanent contact with our ambassador (Nestor Moreira Morán) in Great Britain”.
Precisely on Friday the Foreign Office convened the Uruguayan ambassador to express London’s “great concern” and demand “clarifications” regarding the Uruguayan position, according to British embassy sources in Montevideo.
“The Uruguayan position is potentially very worrying and we are carefully considering our next steps”, said a Foreign Office brief message. “It would be most disappointing that Uruguay has decided to back the shameful attempts by Argentina to harm the economy and way of life of the inhabitants of this small archipelago by blocking access to free trade”.
The Foreign Office message adds that Britain has no doubts about its sovereignty over the Falkland Islands and will continue to support the right of the Islanders to determine their own political future.
“Nor we or the Falklands will yield to those pretending to intimidate or blackmail the Islands”.
In Montevideo businesses involved in port activities said they were shocked with Mujica’s announcement which puts at stake an annual turnover of 300 million dollars related to the fishing industry and hundreds of vessels from different flags operating in the South Atlantic which use Montevideo for their landings and logistics support.
Spanish fishing companies representatives in Montevideo with vessels operating in the South Atlantic advanced that the new Spanish conservative government will consider calling the Uruguayan ambassador in Madrid to explain the extent of the measure announced by President Mujica.
Spanish vessels operating in the South Atlantic with Falkland Islands licences have been challenged and exposed to harassment and interception by the Argentine Coast Guard alleging they are “illegally fishing in Argentine waters”.