In a letter to the Malvinas Islands, British Prime Minister Theresa May highlighted the work her administration has done over the past year with the Argentine government to “build a more constructive relationship” and assured the inhabitants that a better relationship with Argentina is in “everyone’s best interest.” The letter is a tradition that all British heads of state fulfill every Christmas.
In a letter that covered issues ranging from the impact Brexit will have on the Islands — as well as the U.K’s other overseas territories — to praising its government’s support for the agreement that will put a Red Cross committee to work on the ground to identify the unknown Argentine soldiers that lost their lives during the 1982 Malvinas war. May said that in 2016 both governments worked towards “closer cooperation on areas of mutual interest, including making progress on securing important benefits for you in the Falkland Islands.”
To illustrate this, May made reference to the joint statement the U.K and Argentina released in September, in which they pledged to “remove all obstacles limiting the economic growth and sustainable development” of the Malvinas.
This included working on 10 key areas, with both sides agreeing to more flights between Argentina and the islands and lifting restrictions on hydrocarbon exploration. The statement, however, wasn’t received so enthusiastically by many Argentines, upset over the intention of improving bilateral relations by implicitly leaving Argentina’s historic sovereignty claim over the islands aside. In fact, Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra was summoned to Congress shortly after the letter went public to provide an explanation on the issue.
The British government was predictably less emotional when it came to the controversial land claim issue. In the letter, May states that her administration considers the agreement as being a step in the right direction, assuring groups on both sides of the Atlantic that the governments “will continue to work to turn the commitments of the joint statement into reality.”
In fact, two of the goals got closer to becoming a reality last week when the Foreign Ministers from both Argentina and the UK signed a document agreeing to increase the number of flights between the islands and the continent in addition to including more layovers on Argentine continental territory, Buenos Aires among them. This would be a major development as the island’s current contact with the continent is limited to a weekly route with Punta Arenas, in Chile, which only lays over in Río Gallegos once a month.
As mentioned, both countries also agreed to move forward with the process of identifying the unknown soldiers who fell in the 1982 Malvinas war and are buried in the Islands’ Darwin Cemetery. The task will be carried out by the Red Cross which is putting a group of forensic experts together — including two Argentines — to collect DNA samples from soldiers to later compare them with samples from families who voluntarily provided genetic information [to help with] identification.” The group will get to work during the beginning of 2017.
“Your government has been closely involved in discussing the next steps on this sensitive humanitarian matter which will be led by the International Committee of the Red Cross,” reads the letter which, obviously, couldn’t avoid referencing the sovereignty issue.
“We remain resolutely committed to your right to self-determination – on which you made clear your firm position in the referendum 3 years ago,” May concluded.