The Royal Navy is “disappointed” with Uruguay's treatment of a warship heading to the Falkland Islands, but the incident will not affect “the good defence relationship with the Uruguayans, writes Michael Powell The News from Portsmouth Defence correspondent.
It was the second time in three years a RN warship has been denied entrance into Uruguay, whose government supports Argentina's claim to the Falklands, over which Britain went to war with them in 1982, points out Powell.
HMS Gloucester, a Type 42 destroyer based at Portsmouth, had clearance to visit Montevideo for a routine visit on September 15. But just a few hours before she was due to arrive, Uruguayan authorities made it clear she was not welcome.
A Royal Navy spokesman said: 'We can confirm that Uruguay withdrew diplomatic clearance for HMS Gloucester to visit Montevideo from September 15 to 17. The ship, which is currently deployed in the South Atlantic, was scheduled to make a short, routine port visit. We are obviously disappointed with this last-minute decision by Uruguay but respect their right to make it”.
In 2006 Argentina asked neighbouring countries not to allow their ports or airports to be used by British ships or planes heading to the Falklands.
This saw HMS Nottingham turned away from Montevideo in December 2007.
Uruguay historically has backed Argentina's claim to sovereignty over the Falklands and other islands in the South Atlantic, and has voted with it on the issue before international organisations.
The South American neighbours have been working closely together recently to improve relations following years of confrontation over the construction of pulp mills in shared water courses.
But despite last week's snub to HMS Gloucester, the Royal Navy and the Foreign Office insisted the incident will not harm Britain's relations with Uruguay.
A Royal Navy spokesman said: 'We have a long-standing close defence relationship with the Uruguayans. This incident will not affect those good links.'
In a statement, The Foreign Office said: 'We can confirm that HMS Gloucester was scheduled to make a routine port stop in Montevideo between 15 to 17 September. Uruguay subsequently withdrew diplomatic clearance for the short visit. We respect Uruguay's right to make such a decision”.