Two Falklands lawmakers, MLA Mike Summers and MLA Phyl Rendell, will represent the Islands government as part of the British delegation at meetings with Argentina in London next Monday and Tuesday. According to a release from the Islands' government the principal item to be addressed is a second flight from South America to the Falklands that was agreed in a September Joint Statement between the UK and Argentina.
Progress now needs to be made on requesting expressions of interest from qualifying airlines to operate the service, underlines the FIG release. It adds that other issues to be considered at the meetings, depending on the time available, may include scientific cooperation over fisheries in the South West Atlantic and shipping activities.
The Falklands are air linked to South America with a weekly connection from Punta Arenas serviced by Lan Chile, and which was part of the 14 July 1999 agreement. Traffic has since soared and a second flight to the continent has been a long aspiration of the Falklands, since tourism is one of the Islands' economy pillars.
The UK/Argentina September joint statement is an attempt to improve, with a constructive spirit, deteriorated relations following twelve years of Kirchnerism and its aggressive policy towards the Falklands claim. Precisely Point 10 of the release refers to issues of mutual interest in the South Atlantic such as scientific cooperation, improving connectivity, lifting measures obstructing the Falklands economy development, and with humanitarian spirit, helping to identify the remains of Argentine soldiers buried in the Falklands.
A week ago in Geneva, the International Committee of the Red Cross chaired talks between delegations from Argentina and Britain which agreed, in principle, on the mandate to entrust to the ICRC to carry out the identification of Argentine soldiers buried in Darwin Cemetery on the Falklands.
ICRC mentioned that both sides agreed on the potential timing and scope of the project, identification procedures and other details, such as logistical arrangements and the selection of laboratories for DNA sample testing, and expressed confidence that the agreement will be formalized at the earliest opportunity.
At the talks in Geneva (December 8/9), MLA Summers in representation of the Falklands was part of the British delegation.
MLA Summers has had a busy two weeks since he also attended, together with Sukey Cameron MBE, Falklands government representative in London (FIGO), the 62nd Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference (December 11/17), which took place in London.
The Falklands figure in the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association region of British Isles and Mediterranean, and the conference in London this year referred to a Collaborative Commonwealth: unity, diversity and common challenges.
As a matter of backup, Point 10 of the Argentine/UK joint statement from 13 September referred specifically to the South Atlantic and the issues that are being addressed in the current round of talks.
In a positive spirit, both sides agreed to set up a dialogue to improve cooperation on South Atlantic issues of mutual interest. Both governments agreed that the formula on sovereignty in paragraph 2 of the Joint Statement of 19 October 1989 applies to this Joint Communiqué and to its consequences. In this context it was agreed to take the appropriate measures to remove all obstacles limiting the economic growth and sustainable development of the Falkland Islands, including in trade, fishing, shipping and hydrocarbons. Both parties emphasized the benefits of cooperation and positive engagement for all concerned.
In accordance with the principles set out in the 14 July 1999 Joint Statement and Exchange of Letters, both sides agreed that further air links between the Falkland Islands and third countries would be established. In this context they agreed the establishment of 2 additional stops per month in mainland Argentina, one in each direction. The specific details will be defined.
”Both delegations expressed their full support for a DNA identification process in respect of unknown Argentine soldiers buried in the Darwin cemetery. Discussions on this sensitive humanitarian issue will be taken forward in Geneva on the basis of an International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) assessment supplemented by bilateral discussions as required. Both sides agreed that the wishes of the families concerned were paramount.
Both sides agreed to establish a date for a fuller meeting as soon as possible.