British lawmakers will visit the Falkland Islands next month in a move that is likely to heighten tensions between Britain and Argentina over the Islands, The Times reported on Wednesday.
Members of the British parliament Defence Select Committee will conduct the first such visit in almost a decade days before the anniversary of the invasion of the Islands by Argentine forces on April 2, 1982.
Given that we have a significant military presence in the Falklands...it is only right that the defence committee goes and sees first-hand what taxpayers' money is being spent on and what it is doing, said Thomas Docherty, a Labour member of the committee.
One of my priorities given the historic connection this year will be the anniversary. It is important this year that we recognise the sacrifices made, he told the paper.
The chairman of the Defense select committee, James Arbuthnot, told the House of Commons last month that Argentina should be in no doubt of Britain's resolve to hold on to the Falklands. If the Falkland Islands were by any chance to be retaken by Argentina, we would take it back, he said.
Argentina's foreign minister Hector Timerman last week made a protest to the United Nations about Britain's militarization of the zone, saying the South Atlantic has become the last refuge of an empire in decline.
Timerman said Britain had increased its military firepower fourfold around the Falklands by sending a destroyer and a nuclear submarine. British officials have refused to confirm the presence of a nuclear vessel but insist that the warship is just replacing a ship that was already there.
Last week the Secretary of State for Defence Nick Harvey reporting to Parliament said “there are around 1,300 service personnel serving in the Falkland Islands. This number is subject to variation throughout the year as a result of individual posting plots and unit movements”.
UN ambassador Mark Lyall Grant warned Argentina about trying to take advantage of the 30th anniversary of the Falklands War, and vowed Britain would defend our position and defend it robustly.
The MPs' visit coincides with Prince William's six-week tour of duty on the islands, which Argentina believes is an act of provocation by Britain.
Mike Summers, elected member of Falklands’ Legislative Assembly said last week that the Argentine accusation of a military build-up in the South Atlantic “was extraordinary” given that the military foot-print in the Falklands has diminished considerably in recent years: the loss of the Chinook, the reduction of the Resident Infantry Company, the reduction of the frigate from full-time to part-time, all of which “could not be substituted by the deployment of one search-and-rescue pilot (Prince William)”.