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Warning on Falklands intimidation

The Falkland Islanders must not be intimidated through economic pressure, Foreign Secretary William Hague has said as he increased the pressure on the South American countries which have continued their economic blockade against the islands.

Mr Hague signalled the Government was happy with the decision of Brazil, Chile and Uruguay to allow Falkland Island ships to enter their ports providing they bore another national flag or the Red Ensign, following "productive and honest discussions".

However he warned Paraguay and Argentina, the two other countries from the Mercosur group that blocked Falkland Island ships from entering their ports just before Christmas, their decision was "inconsistent" with the principles of the United Nations charter.

In a written ministerial statement to MPs, Mr Hague said: "Whilst we do not accept that the decision to refuse entry to vessels flying the Falklands flag has any basis in international law, our priority has been to ensure that the trade and commercial links between the Falklands and South America are not compromised by this political declaration.

"We have had productive and honest discussions with Uruguay, Chile and Brazil. All three countries have said that they have no intention of participating in an economic blockade of the Falkland Islands and that all Falklands-related commercial shipping will continue to enjoy access to their ports, in accordance with domestic and international law, if they are flying the Red Ensign or another national flag when docked.

"I hope that others in the region will continue to recognise that differences of opinion over UK sovereignty of the Falkland Islands cannot justify collusion in efforts to intimidate an innocent civilian population through economic pressure.

"The British Government will always ensure that the Falkland Islanders' right to determine their political future is respected."

Mr Hague made his statement to MPs to update them on the continuing negotiations over the Christmas recess.

He insisted the Government's response had been "justifiably robust" following the initial decision by Uruguay on December 15 to block any ship bearing the Falkland Islands' flag from entering its ports but said ministers did not want the UK to cut its ties in the region.

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