During a visit to the seat of the Argentine Navy Fleet in Puerto Belgrano, the Commander of the British Fleet, Admiral Sir Alan West paid tribute to the Argentine officers and sailors killed in the sinking of the cruiser ARA General Belgrano in the 1982 Falklands conflict.
Admiral West spent three days in Argentina where he stressed the close links between the two navies and was witness to a display of military capacity and might by the Argentine fleet, naval air force and marines. In Puerto Belgrano the Royal Navy Chief Fleet laid a flower wreath in the monument to the memory of the "General Belgrano" seamen. ARA General Belgrano was torpedoed by a British nuclear submarine in the fringes of the Falklands exclusion zone, on May 2nd. 1982, representing the greatest single loss of life by either side in the conflict. Sir Alan West himself was Commander of the HMS Ardent that was sunk by low flying Argentine Naval Air Force Skyhawks. This is the second visit of a high ranking Royal Navy officer: in July 1999, Admiral Sir Michael Boyce met with then Argentine president Carlos Menem in Buenos Aires. In an interview with the local press, Admiral West praised the capacity and bravery of the Argentine military recalling not only 1982, but also as United Nations peace keeping forces in Iraq and Cyprus and when in England equipping the British built Argentine destroyer "Santístima Trinidad". "War and combat are not pleasing experiences, but as military we feel great esteem for each other", said Admiral West. Talking about current affairs the British high ranking officer said that "the possibility of contributing with forces to a UN coalition in Afghanistan is something very important", adding that there's "a very clear link between the New York atrocities and Osama Ben Laden and Al-Qaeda, and we must face these threats for the sake of our people and to make the world a safe place". However Sir Alan West denied his visit was linked to Argentina's possible participation with support troops in the Afghanistan conflict. Sir Alan was hosted by his Argentine counterpart Admiral Joaquín Stella, who is fluent in English because he spent several years in Britain during the building and launching of the frigate ARA Hercules. Admiral West also pointed out that the Royal Navy was interested in holding joint exercises with the Argentine Navy, but it much depend in the availability of ships, most of which are currently involved in the Persian Gulf.