“Any jurisdictional acts coming from Malvinas is invalid for us” and therefore Malvinas flagged vessels are barred from Uruguayan ports, a decision which is extensive to all Unasur members, said Uruguayan Foreign Affairs minister Luis Almagro.
“For Uruguay the Malvinas issue is very clear, a clear case for decolonization. Uruguay supports Argentine sovereignty rights over Malvinas and any jurisdictional action coming from Malvinas is invalid for us”, confirmed Almagro during a Monday morning radio interview.
The Uruguayan official revealed that barring Falkands/Malvinas flagged vessels from the port of Montevideo is also based on a declaration from Unasur (November 2010) “on which we worked all last year including with some representatives from the fishing sector involved, for which they had twelve months to adapt”.
Almagro said that all Unasur members have been involved in the issue, because the consensus has been very strong “with Uruguay providing the jurisdictional support”.
More specifically on Brazil and the possibility that the fishing vessels that normally operate in Montevideo could move to ports in that country, Almagro said that “Brazil is as much obliged as us, by this (Unasur) measure. But obviously I won’t tell anybody what they have to do”.
“Conversations on the issue started mainly at a political affairs delegates meeting in Georgetown, Guyana, particularly with the Brazilian government and their representatives who were truly convinced and committed on advancing on this issue”.
Almagro also revealed that the decision to bar Falklands’ flagged vessels was first proposed by President Jose Mujica and discussed at cabinet level on Monday December 12. The press only found out about it later in the week.
“It was a very much pondered decision from the President, we had been talking about it for months and there was no pressure or influence from Argentina. On some occasions the issue was consulted bilaterally with Argentina but at another level”, said Almagro who denied any exchanges or bilateral meetings with Argentina on the issue during the recent Latin America and Caribbean summit in Venezuela.
Regarding the meeting announced for next Wednesday with the British ambassador in Montevideo Patrick Mullee, Almagro said he requested the appointment last Friday following on his visit to Parliament where he was questioned on Uruguay’s foreign policy and after having been informed that the Uruguayan ambassador in London, Moreira had been summoned to the Foreign Office.
“The decision was mine with my advisors to meet Ambassador Mullee, simply to specify the case from this side, which is what corresponds”.
Almagro also questioned the annual 200 to 300 million dollars turnover linked to the fishing industry services in the port of Montevideo.
“I don’t have the complete numbers, but port services from our Port Authority, related to the fishing vessels represent, from the top of my head, a maximum of 14 million dollars, Anyhow we would have to discriminate services to see how that figure is reached”.
As to the number of Falklands flagged vessels operating from the port of Montevideo, Almagro said that based on the Port Authorities numbers they total 34, “all of them fishing vessels which it does not mean the 34 keep coming but rather that 34 different vessels have called into Montevideo”.
Almagro added that some Spanish vessels make use of the Falklands flag “to increase their fishing quotas” but all those vessels operating in the Malvinas fisheries as long as they use their own flags, “not the Falklands” are welcome and have guaranteed access to the port of Montevideo including the English flagged.
“Who sails into Montevideo with the British flag has no problem, the British flag is admitted, it’s a country Uruguay recognizes and recognizes all of its administrative and jurisdictional acts; there are no inconveniences”.
The Uruguayan minister admitted not knowing the existence of a Falklands flag which he then checked with the commander of the Navy and the Montevideo port authority.
“There is a Malvinas Islands flag, it definitively exists and as such is the Malvinas flag. The flag has several decades, I have been told and has a Union Jack in a corner and a small sheep on a blue background in the rest”, said Almagro.
“Our decision on the Falklands’ flag is mere political coherence: Uruguay in the UN, in regional forums has had a clear anti-colonialist stance and for decolonization. We have actively participated in the G24 decolonization committee and we have supported all statements regarding Argentina’s sovereignty claim over the Malvinas, Georgia and South Sandwich Islands. It would not be coherent to admit jurisdiction acts with a strong colonial taint”
Finally the minister was asked about the Saturday incident with the Spanish flagged “Villa Nores” but said he is waiting for the official report from the Uruguayan Coast Guard and then “we will consider the legal aspects of innocent passage and the terms ruling the River Plate treaty (shared waters with Argentina)”.
Almagro revealed that the Villa Nores was not the first incident of its kind, “last June there was a peak of cases but we talked with Argentina and since August we had no more reports until now”.