Cabinet Chief Oscar Valdes said that he is sure Peru and UK will be able to overcome a diplomatic rift caused by Lima’s last minute cancellation of a visit to the port of Callao this week of Britain’s HMS Montrose, a navy frigate that has been patrolling the South Atlantic and the Falkland Islands.
Valdes said that at the moment it was a “delicate issue” and admitted serious misunderstandings and contradictions in the cancellation of the frigate’s visit, besides telephoning Browne to apologize on the incident.
“It is a concern that relations with a friendly country like the United Kingdom could have this glitch” daily El Comercio reported Valdes as saying. “We regret this unfortunate incident and we hope it can be overcome.”
The frigate was set to arrive at Callao later this month as “part of a routine deployment in the region,” the British embassy in Lima said. “This was agreed as an act of friendship and cooperation between Peru and the UK”.
Peruvian Foreign Affairs Minister Rafael Roncagliolo said the sudden decision to revoke the invitation was taken to show solidarity with Argentina and its sovereignty claim over the Falklands/Malvinas Islands.
British Ambassador to Lima, James Darius, said in a statement on Thursday that his government has been “let down” by Peru’s decision. “The British Government is disappointed with this cancellation and by the way this issue has been handled”.
“This has been perceived by the people of the United Kingdom as an unfriendly gesture” the Embassy said. The cancellation of the visit is “particularly unfortunate given the solid ties between Peru and the United Kingdom,” it added.
Private British investment in Peru is the second largest after Spain, including in mining, banking and insurance for more than 4.37 billion dollars.
Also, Peru has several defense contracts with Britain, and the Peruvian Navy has just ordered five Griffon 2000TD hovercrafts from Griffon Hoverworks, which will be used for river patrols to combat drug trafficking in the VRAE area with two Griffon vessels purchased in 2009.
Besides Royal Navy ships visit Peru every year during the course of their routine deployments.
However, what has changed this year is that early in February, President Ollanta Humala sent a note, in the framework of Unasur and Mercosur membership, to President Cristina Fernandez to express Peru’s support in Argentina’s request that the region refuses port entry to “ships flying the Falklands flag.”
Even so, a week later Humala’s cabinet sent the request to the Peruvian congress (February 15), which was granted February 27, for the routine arrival of a British Navy ship, this year the HMS Montrose.
A first release from the UK embassy last Monday corrected Foreign Minister Rafael Roncagliolo when he asserted that President Ollanta Humala had not been invited to visit London and that during the encounter with Foreign Office Minister Jeremy Browne, Friday 16 March, he had warned about the “inconvenience” of the frigate’s call at El Callao.
Any such warning was non-existent, according to the Embassy‘s statement: “The frigate’s visit was not discussed during the meeting between Foreign Minister Rafael Roncagliolo and Minister Jeremy Browne on Friday, March 16. We found out on Monday about the Peruvian Government’s decision to cancel the visit of the HMS Montrose”.
Mounting pressure from Argentina over the past week led Peru to suddenly change its mind last weekend about welcoming the British ship, although nothing was mentioned during extensive meetings Friday a week ago when Jeremy Brown, British minister of state for Latin America, was in Lima.
Diplomatic tensions between Argentina and Britain have increased recently as the 30th anniversary of the war nears.