Minister dubs Falklands ‘an important part of the British family’ ahead of visit
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A UK minister has described the Falklands as “an important part of the British family” ahead of a visit to the islands after Argentina’s new president suggested it was time to “get them back”.
David Rutley is arriving in Stanley on Thursday where he will meet governor Alison Blake as well as members of the legislative assembly and the youth parliament, the Foreign Office said.
The trip comes after Javier Milei, who won Argentina’s presidential election earlier this month, reportedly said Buenos Aires had “non-negotiable” sovereignty in the region.
I will reiterate that the UK stands firmly behind the Falkland Islanders’ rights of self-determination
The Falkland Islands, an archipelago in the South Atlantic Ocean known as Islas Malvinas by people in Argentina, was the subject of a bloody conflict in 1982 after Argentinian forces invaded and briefly occupied the territory.
The war claimed the lives of 255 British servicemen, three islanders and 649 Argentinian personnel.
UK ministers have repeatedly cited the results of a 2013 referendum which saw close to 100% of voters on the islands, which have a population of about 3,500, opt to remain a British Overseas Territory.
The Falklands are about 8,000 miles from Britain and 300 miles from mainland Argentina.
Mr Rutley, the minister for Americas, Caribbean and the Overseas Territories, said: “During my visit to the Falkland Islands, I will reiterate that the UK stands firmly behind the Falkland Islanders’ rights of self-determination, as an important part of the British family.
“The Falkland Islands has a flourishing economy and is making great strides in the fight against climate change, which I look forward to learning about first-hand.”
He will meet Government officials and legislative assembly members “to understand issues facing the islands” and attend a youth community reception “to hear how young people are contributing to Falkland Island society”, the Foreign Office said.
Since the 1980s, UK ministers have been keen to shoot down talk of Argentina having any claim to the territory.
But Mr Milei reportedly said during a TV election debate earlier this year that Argentina’s sovereignty was “non-negotiable”.
In an interview with La Nacion, a daily newspaper in Argentina, he proposed that the UK hand over the Falklands to his country in a similar way to how Hong Kong was given back to Chinese rule in 1997.
The populist politician, who has described himself as an anarcho-capitalist and is said to have lauded Margaret Thatcher — the British prime minister during the Falklands conflict — said the views of people living on the islands “cannot be ignored”.
Defence Secretary Grant Shapps earlier this month said it was “undeniable” the islands were British, while Downing Street described Falklands rule as an “issue that was settled decisively some time ago”.