Falklands to unveil Thatcher statue in 2015

Baroness Margaret Thatcher attends a church service to mark the 25th anniversary of the Falkland Islands' liberation in Pangbourne on June 14, 2007 (AFP Photo/Cathal Mcnaughton) (POOL/AFP/File)

London (AFP) - The Falkland Islands are to erect a statue next year of former British premier Margaret Thatcher, who defended the territory against Argentina in 1982, Prime Minister David Cameron announced Thursday.

In his Christmas message to the 3,000 residents of the South Atlantic Ocean archipelago, Cameron revealed the bronze would be unveiled in 2015.

Thatcher was the British leader when Argentina's then-ruling military junta invaded the British overseas territory, which Buenos Aires claims sovereignty over.

The so-called "Iron Lady" sent a British task force that successfully reclaimed the windswept islands, after a two-month war that boosted her popularity at home.

There is already a road named after her in the islands' capital Stanley.

Britain has held the Falklands since 1833, but Buenos Aires claims the barren archipelago is occupied Argentine territory.

Next year, the BBC will screen a series on the islands, their community, wildlife and history, Cameron said.

"We may be 8,000 miles (13,000 kilometres) apart, you may be waking up on Christmas morning as we prepare our Christmas lunches, but our bond remains as strong as ever," he said.

The islands are to be awarded a medal in recognition of the residents' defence of their right of self-determination during the Argentine occupation, foreign secretary Philip Hammond announced in parliament on Thursday.

The "South Atlantic Medal" was previously awarded to almost 30,000 troops and civilians who took part in the operation to liberate the islands in 1982.

The medal, to be presented on behalf of Queen Elizabeth II, is "in recognition of the assistance provided to the forces of the United Kingdom during the liberation", Hammond said.

"The islanders' individual acts of courage exemplified the indomitable will and personal commitment to defending the islands' right of self determination."

It is not the first time a medal has been awarded to an island.

Malta was granted the George Cross in recognition of its inhabitants' bravery during World War II, a medal which appears on the Mediterranean island's flag.