British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said on Tuesday that relations with Argentina will continue to grow despite the nations’ dispute over the Falkland Islands sovereignty. Argentina still claims the Islands that it calls the Malvinas. Britain says the Falklands are a self-governing British Overseas Territory under its protection, confirmed by a 2013 referendum.
It is true that we are doing a great deal together now and we are building a partnership in security, transport, health and technology, Foreign Secretary Johnson told a press conference with his Argentine counterpart Jorge Faurie.
But asked about the Falklands, or Las Malvinas and over which the two countries fought a war in 1982, Johnson said our two positions are well known ...but that does not preclude and should not preclude all what we are doing together now to build a partnership ... and in the intensifying commercial relationship.
People do not want to go to war, said Faurie. The Malvinas is a fundamental bilateral issue, but there are also a whole set of areas in which we are interested in rebuilding trust, he said.
These include trade and investment, transport, health, cooperation in the Antarctic, as well as projects on education, human rights and gender equality.
In a breakthrough after decades of tense relations, both nations agreed to identify the remains of Argentine nameless soldiers buried in the Falklands. They also agreed in 2016 to lift restrictions on the extraction of natural resources, shipping and fishing industries in the Falklands, and increase the number of flights between the islands and South America.
Foreign Minister Faurie said in the joint press conference that the flights are still being reviewed by both countries. He said that so far, five companies — two in Chile, two in Brazil, and one in Uruguay — have offered to provide the service. It would include a stop in Argentina.
Johnson praised the initiative. “I can certainly say that when it comes to the flights issue, I’m grateful to the government of Argentina about the progress that has been made on that issue,” he said. “We seem to be making a lot of progress. If and when it happens, I certainly intend to be among the first passengers on that flight.”
A forensic study led by the International Committee of the Red Cross identified the remains of some 90 Argentine combatants last year after a multinational team of experts exhumed the remains. Relatives of the soldiers travelled aboard flights earlier this year to the remote Argentine military cemetery in Darwin where until then, the gravestones of their loved ones read: “Argentine soldier known only to God.”
Faurie also coincided that the two countries should seek to deepen their economic and political ties, despite their rival claims to sovereignty over the Falkland Islands, adding he could not imagine the continued dispute over the Islands in the south Atlantic descending into war, as it did in 1982.
The UK, which throughout its history has been involved in many armed conflicts on a tragic scale in the history of mankind – you are well aware of the fact that going to war is not the best scenario. So the willingness of a government and a people is not to be at war.
“Each of us is aware of the respective positions we have with regard to the sovereign titles we believe we hold regarding Malvinas. That is one aspect of our bilateral relations, but not the only one. He underlined, I think there [is a] general positive backdrop when it comes to the negotiation over sovereignty.”
Faurie said Argentina was “very satisfied” with the recent assistance the UK had offered in helping to identify the remains of troops killed in the Falklands War.
He also highlighted plans for a new flight from the Falklands with a stopover in Argentina. Bids have already been received from airlines in Chile, Brazil and Uruguay. The foreign secretary said he hoped to be one of the first passengers on the new service.
Throughout the tour Johnson has focused on the prospects of strengthening trade and investment ties with countries in the region. “There are big opportunities for UK business here. We don’t do nearly enough. There’s a low base, but we are going to build on it very fast,” he said.
Boris Johnson is on a five day visit to South America with a first stop in Lima, Peru. This was followed by Argentina for bilateral talks and attending the G20 foreign ministers meeting in Buenos Aires. The foreign minister on Saturday honored the Malvinas fallen with a wreath at the cenotaph in downtown Buenos Aires.
On Wednesday Boris Johnson will be in Chile, where he is scheduled to visit an education project and a hospital being built with British investment. Chile is a long standing ally of Britain from the days when English naval officers helped the country become independent from Spain two centuries ago. Chile's support during the Falklands conflict was most valued by the government of then PM Margaret Thatcher.