Mercosur country members are scheduled to hold a meeting in Rio do Janeiro to agree on a common protocol for all vessels originating in the Falkland Islands and calling at regional ports, announced Uruguay’s Defence minister Eleuterio Fernandez Huidobro.
“We’re holding a meeting in Brazil to adjust criteria, so from statements we can move to concrete measures. That is, what vessels will be allowed to dock, and which won’t? We want all countries in the region to have a common criterion. The same with aircraft flying to and from the Malvinas Islands, although there’s a difference between a naval vessel and a fishing or cargo ship” added the minister.
Uruguay will take to the meeting its traditional position in support of Argentine sovereignty claims over the Malvinas Islands, which is the position adopted by Unasur members. However, “this will be made official by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In Defence we are not involved in policy: we receive orders from Foreign Affairs”, pointed out Minister Fernandez Huidobro.
Since last December and following strong lobbying from Argentina the rest of Mercosur members decided to bar all Falklands flagged vessels from their ports. However vessels sailing to the Falklands can make use of Montevideo as long at they don’t fly the Falklands’ flag”, for example the red ensign.
Nevertheless Mercosur diplomats in private have admitted surprise at the latest announcements by President Cristina Fernandez to the Argentine Congress. In effect only last September the president said before the UN General Assembly that Argentina was seriously considering not allowing the only air contact with the Falklands through Argentine space.
However now she is proposing three flights a week from Buenos Aires, with the country’s flag carrier, Aerolineas Argentinas, which would apparently replace the only current link between the Falklands and the South American continent, which is via Punta Arenas, Chile and with Lan Chile.