Argentina calls for flights to Falklands

Islands official says air route from UK-controlled territory to Buenos Aires "about as likely as flights to the moon".

    Fernandez says direct flights to the Falklands would demonstrate Buenos Aires' peaceful intentions [AFP]

    Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has sought negotiations with the United Kingdom to establish several weekly flights from Buenos Aires to the Falkland Islands.

    Thursday's calls for negotiations have been met with scepticism from the Falklands government.

    Roger Edwards, the British-controlled islands' legislative chairman, said direct flights from the Argentinian capital were "about as likely as the Falklands Air Service landing flights on the moon".

    Fernandez told Argentine legislators that direct flights by the state-owned airline Aerolineas Argentinas would show the world her country's intentions towards the islands, known as las Malvinas in Argentina, were peaceful

    The announcement comes amid growing tensions as Argentina and the UK prepare to mark the 30th anniversary of their brief war over the islands following an Argentine invasion.

    Fernandez said the islands had become "a regional, American and global cause ... that is necessary to address with much seriousness".

    She also condemned what she called the "stubborn, incomprehensible refusal'' of the UK to negotiate over the sovereignty of the Falklands.

    The UK, which has controlled the islands since 1833, insists that it will not negotiate over the islands as long as its residents want to remain British.

    The British Foreign Office responded in a statement: "Any discussions on flights to the Falkland Islands are matters for the Falkland Islands Government to consider."

    Currently there are no flights directly from Argentina to the Falklands, which lie about 480kms off the Argentine coast.

    The only commercial air link is a weekly round-trip by Chilean-owned LAN airlines, which crosses Argentine airspace to reach the islands. LAN's return flight stops once a month in the far southern Argentine city of Rio Gallegos on its way home.

    Fernandez threatened in a United Nations speech last year that she might close Argentine airspace to the LAN flight, just as the government banned charter flights that had frequently relieved cruise ship crews and brought goods to the islands from Chile.

    "If Argentina is keen to promote air links between the continent and the Islands it should reconsider its ban on charter flights through its airspace,'' the British statement said.

    "President Kirchner's current policy of seeking to isolate and dictate to the Falkland Islanders, from the harassment of fishing vessels to the closure of shipping ports, is indefensible and will not succeed."

    SOURCE: Agencies


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