Two British diplomats based in Latin America were visiting the Falklands this week, arriving on Sunday on the delayed LATAM flight after enjoying an unexpected one-night stopover in Punta Arenas. Making his second visit to the Falklands was His Excellency Ian Duddy, British Ambassador to Uruguay. He was accompanied by Richard Jones, Second Secretary at the British Embassy in Buenos Aires.
At a press call in Stanley on Tuesday, both diplomats described the reason for their visits as essentially fact-finding and denied that their arrival just after FIG’s announcement about progress with air links was anything other than coincidental; Mr. Jones had booked his flight to the Falklands in October and Mr. Duddy said that this was simply the first opportunity to visit that had arisen since his appointment as her Majesty’s Ambassador to Uruguay fourteen months ago.
While he had made a brief visit to the Islands in 2005, he was aware that many changes had taken place in the Islands since then and was keen to meet elected MLAs and be brought up-to-date.
Of particular interest to Mr. Duddy was the strengthening of the burgeoning new links between the Falklands and Montevideo. In this context he mentioned the numerous enquiries about the Falklands that had resulted from Falkland Islands participation in the British Pavilion at the Prado Fair.
Following on from this interest, a post had been created within the Embassy on a twelve-month trial period and paid for by the Falkland Islands Government (FIG), for the promotion of commercial and tourism links between Uruguay and the Falklands. The holder of the post, who had been appointed after open completion, would be visiting the Falklands very soon to report on progress. Already, the Ambassador reported, she had experienced some success in unlocking trade barriers. This was instanced recently by the lifting of restrictions on the export of horses to the Falklands from Uruguay.
Questioned on the value of FIG’s Public Diplomacy campaigning in Latin America over recent years, both Mr Jones and Mr Duddy were of the opinion that it was important, even if its fruits might take some time to be visible.
The Ambassador said that it was important to win the hearts and minds of the next generation and that public opinion polls in Uruguay showed support for the Falkland Islands cause slowly creeping up.
Mr. Jones said that there was still a lack of information in Argentina about the realities of the Falkland Islands and it would be good to address this directly. Thousands of Argentines now came to the Falklands each year, mainly as cruise ship passengers and this was important to help dispel the myths about the Islanders and their way of life which still had currency in Argentina, particularly among the less educated sectors of society.
Both visiting diplomats were at pains to reassure Falkland Islanders that efforts being made by Britain to forge links and boost trade throughout Latin America did not constitute any kind of threat to the Falkland Islands. The UK Government’s position on the Falkland Islands right to self-determination had not changed. Any new trading relationships in Latin America would not be at the expense of Falkland sovereignty. (Penguin News)