UK, Argentina to boost ties, without broaching Falklands issue: ministers

Buenos Aires (AFP) –


Britain and Argentina hope to rebuild their strained relationship by boosting trade ties, and without raising the sensitive issue of the disputed Falkland Islands, their foreign ministers said Tuesday.

"It is true that we are doing a great deal together now and we are building a partnership in security, transport, health and technology," British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson told a press conference with his Argentine counterpart Jorge Faurie.

But asked about the Falklands, known in the Spanish-speaking world as Las Malvinas and over which the two countries fought a war in 1982, Johnson said "our two positions are well known...

"But that does not preclude and should not preclude all what we are doing together now to build a partnership... and in the intensifying commercial relationship."

"People do not want to go to war," said Faurie. "The Malvinas is a fundamental bilateral issue, but there are also a whole set of areas in which we are interested in rebuilding trust," he said.

These include trade and investment, transport, health, cooperation in the Antarctic, as well as projects on education, human rights and gender equality.

The war began when troops dispatched by then Argentine dictator Leopoldo Galtieri occupied the archipelago.

A British expeditionary force was sent to the islands and recaptured them.

- 'Among the first passengers' -

Britain refuses to negotiate the status of the islands, as demanded by Argentina, arguing that the nearly 3,000 people living on the islands voted in a referendum in 2013 to remain part of Britain.

Faurie expressed his appreciation for the recent identification, with the help of the International Committee of the Red Cross via DNA testing, of Argentine soldiers who had been buried in nameless graves in a cemetery of the southern archipelago.

Argentina and Britain are also considering adding an additional flight to the Falklands from some point in South America that will include a stopover in Argentina.

"If and when it happens I certainly hope to be among the first passengers on that flight," said Johnson -- the first British foreign secretary to visit Argentina in 25 years.

On Sunday, he laid a wreath at a cenotaph in Buenos Aires in honor of the fallen soldiers in the war.

Johnson is in the country to attend a meeting of foreign ministers of the G20 and as part of a South American tour that began in Peru and will also take him to Chile.

The British government of Prime Minister Theresa May is looking to woo countries outside the European Union with which it can forge closer trade ties after Brexit.

A meeting between May and Argentine President Mauricio Macri could take place during a G20 summit in Buenos Aires in November.