Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 30 September 2014

Fernandez seeks Falklands flights

Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez said flights by a state-owned airline to the Falklands would show the country's aims were peaceful (AP)

Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez has made a surprise conciliatory gesture by seeking negotiations with Britain to set up weekly flights from Buenos Aires to the Falkland Islands.

But a sceptical Roger Edwards, chairman of the Falkland Islands Legislative Assembly, said direct flights from Argentina's capital were "about as likely as the Falklands Air Service landing flights on the moon".

There are currently no direct flights from Argentina to the British-controlled islands, which the South American country claims as the Islas Malvinas. The only commercial air link is a weekly round-trip by Chilean-owned LAN airlines, which crosses Argentine airspace to the islands about 300 miles off the Argentine coast.

LAN's return flight stops once a month in the far southern Argentine city of Rio Gallegos on its way home.

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

But she appeared to reverse her position, telling Argentina's congress that flights by state-owned Aerolineas Argentinas would show the world her country's aims were peaceful.

The announcement came amid growing tensions as the two countries prepare to mark the 30th anniversary of their war over the islands following an Argentine invasion.

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

She also condemned what she said was the "stubborn, incomprehensible refusal" of Britain to negotiate the sovereignty of the Falklands.

The Foreign Office said: "Any discussions on flights to the Falkland Islands are matters for the Falkland Islands government to consider. 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."

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