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Argentina hails Lufthansa’s request for flight to UK-occupied Malvinas

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Aircraft of German airline group Lufthansa are seen on the tarmac at the airport in Frankfurt, Germany, March 23, 2020 (Photo by AFP)

German carrier Lufthansa has asked Argentina for authorization to operate two flights from Germany to British-occupied Malvinas Islands, in a move Buenos Aires says indicates the recognition of Argentina’s sovereignty over the island.

The remote South Atlantic archipelago, known as the Falklands in the United Kingdom (UK), has been a source of dispute between Argentina and Britain for almost two centuries.

The two fought a 10-week war over the archipelago in 1982.

Lufthansa said on Thursday that it has made a request for two flights to the island that are due to carry scientists and logistical support staff from Hamburg to Mount Pleasant on the occupied island.

The flights are scheduled for February 1 and March 30.

The team of scientists and researchers will continue their journey on board the ship “Polarstern” to Antarctica to conduct climate change research.

The Foreign Ministry of Argentina also confirmed Lufthansa’s request for a flyover permission.

“The relevance of Lufthansa’s request presented to the Argentine authorities is highlighted as it implies the recognition of the Malvinas Islands as part of Argentine territory,” said the ministry.

It said that the Germany Embassy also asked for permission from the Argentine Naval Prefecture for the Polarstern ship to enter “Puerto Argentino,” the island’s capital, known in the UK as Port Stanley.

The occupied island, with over 3,000 residents, is just a few hundred miles from Antarctica.

In the past, the normal route to Antarctica would be via Cape Town, which is now suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Lufthansa said that its alternate route via the Malvinas Islands is “the longest passenger flight in the history of its company, marking one of the most unique flights the airline has ever carried out.”

Both passengers and crew at present are in a 14-day quarantine in a bid to try to keep COVID-19 cases low in the remote region.

Argentina has renewed its claim over the islands over the past year.

It has appointed a Malvinas minister, saying that it will redraw maps to emphasize its claim for use in schools and lobbying at the United Nations.

After Britain’s departure from the European Union (EU), the Malvinas Islands have been excluded from the UK-EU trade deal.

This means the occupied islands will not benefit from commercial, tax and customs advantages that have been negotiated in Brexit.

Products going from the islands to EU member countries could now face tariffs. The islands’ exports 90% of its fish to Europe.

Malvinas Islands called on the bloc to continue the "status quo" on trade in fish, citing its benefits for both the European Union and communities in the South Atlantic.

Earlier this month, tensions once again erupted between Argentina and Britain over the presence of British soldiers near the islands.

Britain has been carrying out naval, aerial and military maneuvers in the occupied territory.

Earlier this month, UK armed forces launched military exercises in the region, prompting anger in Buenos Aires, which descried the drills as an “unjustified show of force.”

Argentina’s foreign ministry strongly rejected the military drills. Buenos Aires “reiterates that this is a sovereignty controversy that must be resolved between the two countries,” the ministry said. 

Buenos Aires has repeatedly warned London against violating its rights, and called for a “peaceful solution” to the dispute over the sovereignty of the Malvinas Islands.

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