Germany rejects Argentina's claim on Falklands recognition

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany on Friday rejected a claim by Argentina that a request by airline Lufthansa to fly over Argentina en route to the Falkland Islands implied a recognition of them as Argentine territory.

FILE PHOTO: People visit Gypsy Cove, near Port Stanley, Falkland Islands, May 17, 2018. REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci/File Photo

Argentina and Britain have long disputed ownership of the Falklands, with Argentina claiming sovereignty over the British-run islands it calls the Malvinas. The dispute led to a brief war in 1982.

Lufthansa said it made the request for two flights supporting a polar research expedition because the normal route via Cape Town has been suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

A German foreign ministry spokesman said the federal government’s position on the Falkland Islands had not changed.

“The activities of private companies cannot be attributed to the Federal Republic of Germany and have no international consequences,” he said.

The Argentine government said Lufthansa asked for permission for two flights that are due to carry scientists and logistical support staff from Hamburg to Mount Pleasant in the Falklands, where they will continue onboard the ship “Polarstern” to Antarctica to conduct climate change research.

Argentina said the German government also asked for its permission for the Polarstern research ship to dock in Port Stanley, the capital of the British territory.

The two, 15-hour flights are scheduled for Feb. 1 and March 30.

Argentina’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Lufthansa had asked its civil aviation authority and regional authorities to fly over Argentina and use the Argentine Patagonian town of Ushuaia as an alternative airport should it be unable to land in the Falklands.

The Foreign Ministry said the German Embassy also asked for authorization from the Argentine Naval Prefecture for the Polarstern ship to enter “Puerto Argentino,” the Argentine name for the Falklands capital Port Stanley.

“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,” the Foreign Ministry said.

In the past year, Argentina has renewed its drive to reclaim the Falklands, appointing a Malvinas minister, saying it will redraw maps to emphasize its claim for use in schools and lobbying at the United Nations.

Reporting by Christian Kraemer; Editing by Angus MacSwan