Argentina and the U.K. agreed to increase the frequency of commercial flights from Argentina to the Malvinas Islands. While the political control of the Malvinas has been a contentious issue between the two nations, Wednesday’s announcement comes amid a wider opening up of relations and trade on the Islands.
Travel to the Islands is currently limited. Apart from military flights or cruise ships, LATAM is the only international carrier going to the Malvinas, often with long layovers. The limited flights were part of former President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner's strategy to increase Argentine control over the disputed islands.
“It’s clear to me that Argentina is open for business,” said U.K. Foreign Office Minister Sir Alan Duncan.
A weekly flight runs from Santiago de Chile. Only one monthly flight operates from mainland Argentina, running from Rio Gallegos in the southern Santa Cruz province, which is still at least a three-hour flight from Buenos Aires. More frequent flights are expected to operate in the same way from Chile.
The increased flights are expected to open up tourism and business in the area.
Other measures have included lifting restrictions on gas, shipping and fishing in the islands. The local government of the Malvinas has welcomed the move.
In a joint statement, both countries agreed to work to “strengthen cooperation between governments and the private sector in the areas of investments, promoting foreign direct investment in both directions and developing commercial links.”
Duncan reiterated that the U.K.’s position on the sovereignty of the Island had not changed. President Mauricio Macri’s government has begun to change Argentina’s traditional hostile approach to relations with London, particularly on the sovereignty of the disputed islands.
The U.K. first occupied the Malvinas in 1833, which it calls the Falklands Islands, and Argentina has claimed sovereignty ever since. In 1982, both fought over the Islands, but Argentina's military dictatorship was defeated. The islands are currently governed as a British overseas territory, but a March U.N. ruling said that the Islands were in Argentine waters.
As part of Wednesday’s agreement, the U.K. also said that thousands of landmines left over from the conflict will be removed. There was also discussion about supporting the DNA identification of unknown Argentine soldiers buried on the territory.