Peru nixes British frigate visit, citing Falklands


LIMA, Peru (AP) — Peru has canceled a port call by a British navy frigate in solidarity with Argentina, citing the country's long-running dispute with Britain over the Falkland Islands.

The frigate HMS Montrose had been scheduled to visit a naval base in Lima's El Callao port starting Thursday.

Peruvian Foreign Minister Rafael Roncagliolo announced on Monday that the visit had been canceled.

"This decision has been adopted in the spirit of commitments to Latin American solidarity ... with respect to the legitimate rights of the Argentine republic in the sovereignty dispute" over the islands, Roncagliolo told the state-run Andina news agency.

The decision came after Argentine news media criticized Peru's initial authorization of the frigate's visit despite tensions between Argentina and Britain ahead of the 30th anniversary of their brief war over the islands.

The British Embassy in Lima said in a statement that the frigate had been "scheduled to make a short visit to Peru as part of a routine deployment to the region."

"Ship visits are a sovereign decision for states, but we regret that Peru has revoked its previous agreement to this visit," the British Embassy said in the statement Monday night. "The UK Government remains fully committed to the Falkland islanders' right to self determination. This position will not change."

Argentina's government has been trying to use diplomatic and economic power to force Britain into sovereignty talks ahead of the April 2 anniversary of Argentina's 1982 invasion of the islands, which are known throughout Latin America as the Islas Malvinas.

Roncagliolo said in an interview with the Peruvian TV channel RPP Television that the government values its relationship with Britain but that in recent weeks the issue of the Falklands had become particularly sensitive in Latin America since the frigate had been assigned to patrol waters near the islands.

He said Peruvian officials felt such military activities "aren't the best to contribute to what we seek, which is dialogue between Argentina and the United Kingdom."

In Peru's Congress, however, the cancellation of the frigate's visit set off debate. Lawmakers on the defense committee decided to ask the foreign minister and defense minister to appear to explain the government's decision after having initially sought congressional approval for the ship's visit.

"One thing is an attitude of solidarity that there may be with Argentina on the issue of the Malvinas, but other countries can't be mistreated," said Lourdes Alcorta, an opposition congresswoman.