The Argentine Defense Ministry has warned that there will be missiles fired from the Malvinas Islands from October 19 to 28 as part of a UK military exercise. The Foreign Ministry consequently called on the British ambassador in Argentina, Mark Kent, to protest the military exercises, which come at a time when bilateral relations are set to be relaunched and “goes against the principle of peaceful solutions to the conflict.”
Deputy Foreign Minister Carlos Foradori handed Kent a note with the country’s “formal and energetic protest regarding the … military exercises” and demanded that they refrain from carrying them out.
“The exercises turn a blind eye to resolutions from the UN and other international organizations urging both countries to renew negotiations to find a peaceful and definitive solution to the sovereignty dispute, as well as abstaining from unilateral actions in territories and maritime areas under dispute,” notes a press release from Argentina’s Foreign Ministry, which also says the UN Secretary General will be informed about the situation.
Word of the upcoming military exercises came from Argentina’s Defense Ministry, which said it was releasing the information on “humanitarian” grounds and for “the protection of human life at sea”:
“The English military troops that are illegally occupying the Argentine territory of the Malvinas Islands have notified us that they will be carrying out a military exercise that includes the launching of missiles.”
This isn’t the first time that British troops have carried out military exercises, which the Argentinian government has consistently protested. The last time thee exercises flared up to a diplomatic dispute was in 2014, when the HMS Iron Duke warship fired guns off the islands. At the time, Argentina said the exercises amounted to an “act of colonial aggression” and were part of a “pattern” of “hostile acts.” The British government dismissed the complaints, saying the military exercises occur at least twice a year.
This latest complaint is notable though because it comes at a time when relations were supposed to be improving between Buenos Aires and London. Last month, a joint statement on areas of mutual cooperation between Argentina and the United Kingdom was published that included talk of the Malvinas.
The Malvinas government apparently welcomed this joint statement, saying that it “looks forward to removal of sanctions on hydrocarbons, fisheries, shipping and tourism [and] seeing tangible signs of improvement in these areas.”
The issues outlined in the joint statement included more flights between Argentina and the islands, something that could be potentially beneficial for the islands’ attempts to get more flights to São Paulo, Brazil.
“[Weekly flights to São Paulo] will only come from explicit Argentine agreement not to obstruct the flight. Simply flying around Argentine airspace, as some have suggested, is unlikely to achieve this, though we will continue those lines of discussion. At this early stage Argentina has indicated that in return for advising the Brazilian Government that it does not object, they would like the flight to stop over once a month in Argentina,” said Malvinas legislative council member Mike Summers.
For Summers, the question is whether a monthly stopover in Argentina too high a price to pay for a direct weekly flight to Sao Paulo, the biggest flight hub in South America: according to his statements as reported by the Penguin News, he seems inclined to think it’s worth the compromise:
“An alternative north to south air-link through a major hub has long been a necessity, and has been discussed in various guises since the mid 90s. We can stop it any time we choose if it appears that there is some threat to security or safe passage. But it is only once a month, not every flight. Can the UK Government insist it continues if we don’t want it — no they can’t. Can the Argentine Government insist it continues or change the rules without our agreement — no they can’t. So the current FIG judgement is that the flight does not present a security risk,” said MLA Summers.