Peru has cancelled a forthcoming visit by a Royal Navy frigate to the country as tensions between Britain and Latin America mount over the Falkland Islands.
HMS Montrose was set to dock in Lima's port of Callao for a friendly visit
HMS Montrose was scheduled to dock at Peru's El Callao naval base this week, but the visit has been cancelled by Peru in a show of solidarity with Argentina. Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has criticised Britain’s territorial rights to the Falkland Islands, known in Latin America as the Malvinas.
The dispute comes ahead of the 30th anniversary of the Falklands war in April, which saw Argentine forces invade and occupy the islands before British troops managed to successfully recapture the region. During the conflict 255 members of the British forces were killed, as well 649 Argentine military personnel and three resident islanders.
Evoking the “spirit of Latin American solidarity”, Rafael Roncagliolo, the Peruvian foreign minister, told news agency Andina Peru that Argentina has legitimate rights to dominion over the Falkands.
“This decision has been taken in the spirit of Latin American solidarity commitments undertaken in the framework of Unasur (Union of South American Nations) with regard to the legitimate rights of Argentina in the sovereignty dispute over the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding waters,” Mr Roncagliolo said.
Just days ago, British Foreign Office Minister Jeremy Browne was in Peru “to reaffirm the UK's commitment to working on political and business-related issues,” according to the Foreign office website.
A Foreign Office spokesman expressed the UK’s regret over the issue, but stressed that this was an isolated case.
“Our relationship with Peru is much broader than this single issue, but we regret Peru has taken this decision without taking the opportunity to raise this concern with Mr Browne during his visit,” he said.
Mr Browne, in a video on Britain’s Peru embassy website filmed shortly before his visit to Peru, said: “The relationship between Peru and Britain is very imp to us, it’s a country that we have close historical links with, and have worked with closely in recent years and we want to continue to do even more with Peru in the future.”
“Britain hasn’t given Latin America as a whole as much attention as it probably should have done in recent decades and we want to correct that,” he added. “We’re determined in our Foreign Affairs ministry to do much more to work closely with countries right across Latin America including a really important country like Peru. We feel that we can work very closely as countries together in our mutual benefit.”
Speaking about Peruvian spectators of the London 2012 Olympics coming to Britain, Mr Browne said they will be “very welcome in my country.”