British diplomats are accusing Argentina of planning an economic blockade of the Falkland Islands that could essentially cut off its residents from the outside world, the Guardian newspaper is reporting.
Tensions between the United Kingdom and Argentina have been mounting recently, as the UK prepares to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the 1982 Falklands war in June.
Argentina’s president, Fernández de Kirchner, has in the past publicly threatened to block the Chilean airline LAN from making its 560-mile, weekly flight between Punta Arenas, in Chile’s southernmost region, and Port Stanley in the Falklands.
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On Wednesday night, British diplomats told the Guardian that they believed the Argentinian government was planning to follow through with the move in the near future in an attempt to make the islands too expensive for the UK to maintain.
The LAN flight is the main link to the outside world for the Falklands’ 3,000 residents and the only air connection to the South American continent. If it were cancelled, inhabitants would be left dependent on a twice-weekly military flight from the UK, 8,000 miles away.
"If the LAN Chile flight is cancelled it would be pretty difficult to resist the already credible thesis that there is an economic blockade of the civilian population of the Falklands," one diplomat told the newspaper.
They added that they were expecting the move to come soon, and that if LAN refused to stop the flight, Argentina would simply ban the use of its airspace.
"This has been rumbling for many months,” Barry Elsby, a member of the Falkland Islands’ legislative assembly is quoted as saying. “It's a possibility we live with on a daily basis."
Both the UK and Argentina claim responsibility for the Falkland Islands, though islanders reject the Argentine sovereignty claim.