The British Prime Minister Tony Blair has added his own thoughts to the recent strengthening of relationships between Britain and Argentina, 20 years after the Falklands War.
Speaking directly to the Islands population on the BBC World Service, Mr. Blair said:
'The United Kingdom's relations with Argentina are good and we continue to work to improve them. I therefore hope that practical cooperation and mutual understanding between the Falklands and Argentina can be further developed where this is in the interests of the Islands and in accordance with the wishes of the people'.
However Mr. Blair was quick to reassure Islanders that while welcoming any warming of links between the Islands and the mainland the British Government's support to the Falklands is not diminishing in any way:
'But I recognize that the partnership between the Falkland Islands and the United Kingdom is vital to your continued prosperity and security and that your confidence in dealing with your neighbours will be enhanced in the secure knowledge of the guarantees I have given of my Government's commitment to your self-determination and sovereignty'. The policy of Britain's Prime Minister broadcasting a personal Festive greeting to the Islanders began with Britain's then Prime Minister Lady Thatcher in December 1982. Her successor, John Major, continued the trend, but Mr. Blair, while extending the tradition switched the timing of his message from Christmas to New Year.
The Prime Minister recalled the lives which were lost, on both sides, in the Conflict of 20 years ago saying:
'This year in particular has provided an opportunity for remembrance of all who lost their lives in the conflict. The commemoration events touched many on the Islands and beyond, culminating in the Duke of York's recent visit (to the Falklands) and his personal gesture of reconciliation in laying wreaths at both the British and Argentine cemeteries. The ground was of course prepared beforehand in a profound gesture of reconciliation by your Government earlier in the year in their approval of plans for a memorial to the Argentine war dead at Darwin'.Mr. Blair praised the Falkland Islands Government for their continuing programme of development and infrastructure, which has seen the Islands population rise from 1,700 to 2,500 since 1982, while 500 miles of new roads have been built and hundreds of new houses and a 20$US millions Community School constructed. The Islands have become financially autonomous through a well managed fisheries regime.
'The Falkland Islands have a bright future. This year the international community has seen that the Falklands is a prosperous, vibrant and self-confident community.
Your new Governor has spoken of an entrepreneurial spirit in the Islands - of new opportunities, and of young people eager to return after completing their education in the United Kingdom. You recognize the importance of economic diversification. The Islands Plan provides an admirable strategy for the continued development of a sustainable economy, protection of the environment, and improvements to your quality of life. You have achieved so much in recent years and I am sure that your prudent management of affairs will continue to provide a secure platform for future generations'.
The Islands Plan provides an admirable strategy for the continued development of a sustainable economy, protection of the environment, and improvements to your quality of life. You have achieved so much in recent years and I am sure that your prudent management of affairs will continue to provide a secure platform for future generations'.The British Prime Minister also praised the Islanders for granting the Freedom of the Falkland Islands to the British Forces, during this 20th anniversary year of the conflict.
He concluded his message by, 'wishing you and your families a peaceful and happy New Year'.