Falklands: Alberto Fernandez says the UK is 'ignoring' Argentina
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And the Prime Minister will demonstrate a similar commitment to Gibraltar after recent sabre-rattling by Spain’s far-right Vox party. Mr Johnson will outline his defence and security priorities in a Commons statement today to unveil the Government’s integrated review into defence and foreign policy, part of a commitment to increase spending on defence by more than £16billion over the course of the next four years.
The 100-page strategy, Global Britain in a Competitive Age, offers insights the various ways in which the UK will protect its 14 overseas territories by “deterring and defending against state and non-state threats”.
Specifically, it commits the Armed Forces to “maintain a permanent presence in the Falkland Islands, Ascension Island and the British Indian Ocean Territory”.
A Government source added: “The UK is far from leaving its transatlantic commitments.
“They are being beefed up and held in high regard.”
Mr Johnson’s plans in respect of the Falklands come at a time when Argentina’s President, Alberto Fernandez, is seeking to put the question of sovereignty back on the agenda.
Last year the country’s Congress approved the creation of a National Council for Matters Relating to the Malvinas Islands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.
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Daniel Filmus, secretary of Malvinas, Antarctica and South Atlantic, subsequently hailed the move as one more step to “make progress in the defence of the heritage that belongs to 45 million Argentines”.
Mr Fernandez himself used his speech to the 75th United Nations General Assembly to rail against what he called the “illegal UK occupation”, while Argentina has also lobbied EU High Representative Josep Borrell on the issue.
The Falklands are occupied by more than 3,000 people who have remain overwhelmingly committed to retaining their British links.
However, Argentina has never renounced its claim on the remote archipelago in the South Atlantic, which it invaded in 1982, promoting a 10-week war which saw it liberated by a task force dispatched by then-PM Margaret Thatcher.
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Speaking to Express.co.uk in 2019, shortly after Mr Fernandez’s election victory over Mauricio Macri, Gavin Short, news editor of Falklands Radio, said islanders “would rather go hungry than cede on inch of our country to anyone”.
He added: “For most people here, Argentina isn’t in their thoughts most days.
It’s only when we have unruly visitors from their country or it is mentioned on the radio or they bump into it on the internet, do they become aware of whatever the latest shenanigans are.”
However, he admitted: “There are those here, and I am one, who are Argentina watchers.
“Part of that is my general interest in politics in the ‘southern cone’ and especially in Argentina as I want to know what they are up to and are thinking, as far as it may impact the Falklands.”
With respect to Gibraltar, the document highlights the need to “deter and challenge incursions in British Gibraltar Territorial Waters”.
Like the Falklands, sovereignty of the Rock, which is located on the southern tip of Spain and which has been in British hands since the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, is still disputed.
Spain regularly sails warships into the seas around Gibraltar in what are regarded as acts of aggression.
Earlier this year, members Vox in the Andalusian Parliament urged Madrid to scrap the UK’s post-Brexit agreement signed with Spain, demanding that Gibraltar to be “liberated” from the UK.
Like the Falkland Islanders, the vast majority of Gibraltarians wish to retain their links with Britain.
A 2018 referendum saw all but 44 of the 12,762 qualified to vote opt to retain the Rock’s status as a British overseas territory.
Elsewhere, the report outlines plans for “significant investment in the sovereign base areas in Cyprus” which “will assure our ability to contribute to security with allies in the Eastern Mediterranean”.
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