The Falkland Islands Government (FIG) has welcomed the agreement made between the Argentine and United Kingdom Governments, laid out under this morning’s joint statement. Speaking to the media, Members of the Falkland’s Legislative Assembly stated they “looked forward to a better relationship with Argentina”, especially in the areas of hydrocarbons, fisheries, shipping and tourism.
It was announced this morning that the British Government and the Government of Argentina had agreed to an “improved relationship through closer co-operation on areas of mutual interest, including on trade and security”. The joint statement made earlier today follows recent meetings held in Buenos Aires by Sir Alan Duncan, who is the first British Foreign Office Minister to visit Argentina since the Conservatives came to power in 2010.
Whilst in Buenos Aires Sir Duncan met with many high profile Argentine Government officials, including President Mauricio Macri; who since becoming the President has taken a much more conciliatory tone in regards to Britain and the Falkland Islands than his predecessor, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.
The joint statement is the first real progress to be made on South Atlantic issues since the previous joint statement made in 1999. Whilst sovereignty over the Falkland Islands was not part of the discussions, the agreement allows for all three countries to work towards addressing the removal of “restrictive measures around the oil and gas industry, shipping and fishing affecting the Falkland Islands in the coming months”.
Both the UK and Argentine delegations also expressed support for the programme to identify the remains of unknown Argentine soldiers buried at Darwin Cemetery in the Falkland Islands. The programme is currently being led by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and is being facilitated by the Falkland Islands Government (FIG).
Commenting on the joint statement this morning, Sir Duncan said he was “pleased we have agreed the Falkland Islands are free to set up flight connections with other countries in the region. A monthly stopover in Argentina will see a further arrangement similar to that which exists already”. He continued; “the South Atlantic Dialogue will seek to build cooperation in areas of mutual interest”, but this does not include the issue of sovereignty, a point which the UK believes in “strongly”, adding “there can be no dialogue on this unless the Falkland Islanders so wish”.
Following the announcement of the joint statement this morning, FIG stated “they welcomed the agreement”, particularly welcoming the Argentine Government’s move towards “removing all obstacles limiting the economic growth and development of the Falkland Islands”. Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA), Phyl Rendell, “welcomed and thanked the work done by Sir Duncan” and believed a “reasonable agreement” had been reached, specifically with the Argentine understanding of rolling back the sanctions over the Falklands.
FIG hopes with this agreement “tangible signs of improvement” will be seen in areas of hydrocarbons, fisheries, shipping and tourism, especially in establishing a new commercial air link with South America. However, FIG was quick to note that any future flight which stopped over in Argentina would follow the same principles as agreed under the previous joint statement in 1999. LATAM airlines currently operates flights between Punta Arenas and the Falklands, but stops in Rio Gallegos in Argentina twice a month, once heading in either direction.
While the dismantling of sanctions was unanimously welcomed by Falkland MLAs, MLA Mike Summers noted that changes may not be seen immediately as changes to policy concerning the Falklands in Argentina would take time and would need the support of the majority of the Argentine Government, support which might not be forthcoming in the future.
Whilst no specific details of the agreement have yet to be discussed, with the joint statement only going as far as proposing an “improved relationship through closer co-operation on areas of mutual interest”, future meetings are scheduled to be held between British and Argentine officials, with FIG confirming they “will be represented at any future discussions”.
Discussions on hydrocarbons and fisheries are rumoured to be the focus initially, with FIG hoping improvements in both these two key economic areas can be quickly realised.