Argentina wants state airline to fly to Falklands

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 01, 2012 2:07 PM
Argentina wants state airline to fly to Falklands

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Argentina's president said on Thursday she wants the state airline to fly between Buenos Aires and the disputed Falkland Islands, saying she will ask Britain to renegotiate the current flight accord.

According to an agreement between Argentina and Britain signed in the late 1990s, Chilean airline LAN has offered regular direct flights between Chile and the British-controlled South Atlantic archipelago.

Tensions between Argentina and Britain have surged in recent months ahead of the 30th anniversary of the brief war the two countries fought over the remote islands in 1982, raising speculation about the future of the commercial air link.

"We're going to ask for negotiations in order to have ... flights leaving from mainland Argentina - Buenos Aires - to the islands in our flag-carrier, Aerolineas Argentinas," President Cristina Fernandez said in her state of the union address to Congress.

The weekly Lan flights currently stop once per month in Rio Gallegos, a town in southern Argentina, a measure that was agreed to allow Argentine war veterans and families of servicemen killed in the conflict to visit the islands.

Diplomatic tensions over the Falklands, which Argentines call Las Malvinas, have increased in recent years over offshore oil exploration by British companies off the islands' coast.

Argentina complained to the United Nations this month over what it called Britain's "militarization" of the South Atlantic and both countries have traded accusations of "colonialism" over their sovereignty claim on the Falklands.

On Monday, provincial authorities in Argentina stopped two British-linked cruise ships from docking in Tierra del Fuego, raising the temperature further.

(Reporting by Helen Popper and Juliana Castilla; Editing by Sandra Maler)