Argentina furious at surge in UK military flights over Falklands – Brazil dragged into row

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The South American country’s ambassador to Brazil, Daniel Scioli, has complained to the Brazilian Foreign Ministry about the unusual air traffic between the British Overseas Territory and the continent’s largest country. Argentina’s government detected seven British military flights connecting the Falkland Islands and Brazil between January 4 and 28, local media reports.

According to the details seen by Argentine daily La Nacion, the planes took off from Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and Porto Alegre with five of the seven flights round trips.

The news has raised alarm bells in Buenos Aires about possible consent from Brazil towards Britain’s military presence in the South Atlantic.

RAF Mount Pleasant is a Royal Air Force station based in East Falkland. It was opened by Prince Andrew in 1985 to boost the territory’s defence after the 1982 war over the islands which Argentina lays claim to and calls Islas Malvinas.

Argentina insists the islands are subject to an illegal occupation which began on January 3, 1833, when, it says, the UK used its forces to expel legitimately constituted Argentine authorities.

A diplomatic source told La Nacion: “To allow this frequency of flights means to accept as something normal a military base in the region.”

In a note to Pedro Miguel Costa e Silva, secretary for bilateral and regional negotiations in the Americas, Mr Scioli says: “Argentina will appreciate that the Brazilian government tries to restrict the granting of permits for British military aircraft coming from or bound for the Malvinas Islands, only in strictly humanitarian cases.”

La Nacion reports that in a flight on January 21, a Boeing C-17 Globemaster III military transport aircraft landed at Porto Alegre airport to refuel and left for the Falkland Islands less than 24 hours later.

It came two days after the Argentine Foreign Ministry rejected the British military deployment in the South Atlantic.

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Buenos Aires has also complained about the installation of a new generation air defence system called Sky Sabre, which Argentina’s Foreign Ministry described as an “unjustified show of force” which distanced the UK from the search for a peaceful solution to the sovereignty dispute over the Falkland Islands.

La Nacion claims that the expansion of Britain’s weapons capability in the South Atlantic contravenes two UN General Assembly resolutions, which urge states to recognise the region as a zone of peace and also call on Argentina and the UK to negotiate sovereignty instead of taking unilateral action.

Brazil is used as a base for humanitarian flights to the Falkland Islands, according to diplomatic sources, with neighbouring Uruguay often used as an arrival point for ships supplying the British Overseas Territory.

However, the volume of military flights in the last month caught the attention of the Argentine authorities, who expressed their concern to Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro’s government on Monday, La Nacion reports.

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This year marks the 40th anniversary of the 10 week-long Falklands War which was sparked by an Argentine invasion of the islands which cost the lives of 255 British military personnel.

Roger Spink, a member of the territory’s Legislative Assembly, accused Argentina of worsening relations with the Falkland Islands in its use of “bellicose” rhetoric.

He said: “We’re a small population that continues to be bullied by Argentina. They very often use [the row over sovereignty] to divert attention of their population from the issues they have within their own economy.

“It’s very sad. We try and live in peace with them. We’ve bent over backwards to work with them on humanitarian projects.”

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He added: “We feel we’ve been reasonable, despite the difficulties for people who were in effect invaded and [had] their liberties taken away from them, but they continue to issue threats.”

These include Argentina demanding air links to the islands while ignoring requests from the territory to open up a route between the Falkland Islands and Chile.

The Ministry of Defence has been contacted.

With additional reporting by Maria Ortega.

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