The Duke of Cambridge has celebrated the Falkland Islands becoming mine-free in a video message highlighting a topic championed by Diana, Princess of Wales.
William described the development as a “historic moment” and, echoing his mother, spoke out about the “cruel and senseless weapons”.
At the weekend, almost 40 years after the Falklands War ended, the islands were finally declared free of the mines laid during the conflict.
As the Falkland Islands are declared mine-free, HRH The Duke of Cambridge sent a personal message to the people of the Islands. #MineFreeFalklands #Falklands @KensingtonRoyal | @RoyalFamily pic.twitter.com/ZKxc9pK0fd— FIG Representative to the UK and Europe (@FalklandsRepUK) November 14, 2020
Falklanders celebrated by rushing on to beaches once taped off due to the risk from the buried weapons.
The legacy of the 1982 war with the occupying Argentine forces had meant large areas of the islands had been off limits.
In a video message William said: “Having visited the Falklands in 2012, while I was serving with the RAF Search and Rescue, I know how important the effort to clear the islands of mines has been.
“Land mines are cruel and senseless weapons that ruin lives and livelihoods.
The Falkland Islands are free of lethal landmines thanks to a UK funded team - almost 40 years after the end of the conflict during which thousands of dangerous devices were laid.— Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (@FCDOGovUK) November 10, 2020
The UK is contributing Â£36m to continue demining around the world 🌍. #Landminefree2025 pic.twitter.com/PEgq9bUMG8
“For so many of you, particularly in Stanley, the exclusion tape barring access to nearby beaches had become a sad and perilous fact of life.
“This is therefore a hugely significant moment for the people of the Falklands.”
Diana never saw her work to help outlaw landmines come to fruition as she died before the international treaty to ban them was signed in 1997, a few months after she was killed in a Paris car crash.
She famously walked through a partially cleared minefield in Angola to highlight the problem of mines.
Following the destruction of the last landmines, Yorke Bay, fenced off for 38 years, can now be enjoyed by Islanders and visitors to the Falklands! #MineFreeFalklands #Falklands pic.twitter.com/tzQD3yDcnE— FIG Representative to the UK and Europe (@FalklandsRepUK) November 14, 2020
William said: “I hope that by removing for good these scars of the 1982 conflict, you are taking another step towards defining yourselves as the modern community-spirited place that you have built in the decades since.
“I would like to say a huge thank you to all those who have helped to achieve this milestone, in particular we all owe a debt of gratitude to the Zimbabwean de-mining staff, who have worked tirelessly over the years in very difficult and dangerous conditions.”
The UK-funded programme in the Falklands, carried out by a team from Zimbabwe, started in 2009 and has completed its dangerous mission in the South Atlantic three years ahead of schedule.
The removal of the mines laid during the conflict means the UK has now met its obligations set by the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention.
There are now no anti-personnel mines laid on British soil anywhere in the world.