Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has visited a Falklands War memorial in Argentine capital Buenos Aires and laid a wreath in honour of the dead on both sides of the conflict.
Mr Johnson was joined by foreign minister Jorge Faurie and defence minister Oscar Aguad to pay their respects at a ceremony at the Monumento a los Caidos en Malvinas – the Monument to the Fallen in the Falklands.
Argentina’s chief of the cabinet of ministers Marcos Pena will next month lay a wreath in St Paul’s Cathedral in London to reciprocate the gesture.
The move is part of an effort by the UK to reset relations with Argentina after more than a decade in the deep freeze during the presidencies of Nestor Kirchner and Cristina Kirchner, whose bellicose stance on the islands was used to distract attention from the country’s economic woes.
Argentina still claims the disputed archipelago, and some Kirchner-era restrictions on economic activity and transport links remain in place.
But since his election as president in 2015, Mauricio Macri has significantly dialled down the rhetoric.
And gestures of reconciliation have taken place, including UK support for DNA testing on remains in Darwin military cemetery which allowed families of the Argentine dead to visit in the knowledge of their loved ones’ last resting place.
Britain has made clear that its interest lies in ensuring the islanders’ rights to self-determination are respected and they are allowed to develop their economy. An additional weekly flight is to be established to link them with the South American mainland.
The relationship between the UK and Argentina has come a long way over the past few yearsBoris Johnson, Foreign Secretary
Mr Johnson hopes that the Falklands issue will not be a bone of contention during his two-day visit, when post-Brexit trade opportunities will be to the fore.
Speaking on arrival in Argentina, Mr Johnson said: “The relationship between the UK and Argentina has come a long way over the past few years and this visit will be an opportunity to build on and enhance ever closer co-operation on trade, investment, cultural ties, tackling corruption and organised crime, and increasing links in science and technology.
“As the UK leaves the European Union, my message is that the UK is open for business.
“I look forward to a new chapter in our relationship, and booming trade prospects, after the UK leaves the European Union.”
Engraved on the walls of the monument are the names of the 649 Argentine troops who lost their lives in the 1982 conflict following the invasion of the British territories by the military junta then in power in Buenos Aires.
But Mr Johnson’s wreath was dedicated to the dead on both sides.
The Prince of Wales has previously laid a wreath during a visit to Buenos Aires in 1999.
Speaking ahead of the ceremony, Foreign Secretary Johnson said: “It is an honour to join foreign minister Faurie today, and to lay a wreath at the Monument to the Fallen, commemorating all those who died in the Falkland Islands conflict.”
On Monday, Mr Johnson will attend a meeting of the foreign ministers of the G20 group of economic powers, which is chaired this year by Argentina.
In the first visit by a British Foreign Secretary to Argentina in 22 years, he will hold bilateral meetings with Mr Macri and Mr Faurie.