UK Science minister calls in the Falklands en route to Antarctica tour
Science and Universities Minister David Willetts has become the latest UK politician to visit the Falklands. A spokesman for Mr Willetts said he would make on Thursday a transiting visit en route to an engagement in Antarctica.
Tensions have risen in recent weeks between the UK and Argentina over the sovereignty of the Falklands ahead of April 2 that marks the 30th anniversary of the start of the Falklands conflict when Argentine marines invaded the Islands.
Mr Willetts' spokesman said he was making a long-planned tour of the British Antarctic Survey in Rothera and would call at the Falklands on the outbound and inbound legs of his journey to pick up connecting flights.
He said the Conservative minister did not have any official engagements planned during his stopover. However Mr Willetts would hold talks with British military commanders while on the islands.
He is also due to host a dinner with Governor Nigel Haywood and hold discussions on policy matters, including whether the Islands' students should have to pay tuition fees, the newspaper said.
Mr Willetts also reiterated the position expressed by Prime Minister David Cameron that the Falklands would remain British as long as Islanders wanted to do so.
What matters is the right of self-determination of the people in the Falklands, he told the Times. What matters is the right of self-determination of the people in the Falklands.
“They made it very clear they wish to remain British and this should be seen as part of Britain’s historic links to the south Atlantic and the Antarctic.”
The minister is traveling with Dr Mike Pinnock, head of science resource planning at the British Antarctic Survey, and once in the Antarctic, he will spend several days examining how £40 million a year is spent on research in the region.
Minister Willetts flew from RAF Brize Norton Wednesday night according to The Times. He will stay at Mount Pleasant, the military base 30 miles southwest of Stanley, the capital.
Argentina has called on the UK to enter into negotiations over the Islands' future - something Britain has refused to do.
The impasse has sparked strong words from both sides and prompted United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon to issue a statement expressing concern about the increasingly strong exchanges.