Argentina claims routine airspace request is recognition of its sovereignty over Falklands
Argentina has sought to portray a routine request by the German airline Lufthansa to fly through its airspace as recognition of its claim to sovereignty over the Falkland Islands.
A spokesman for the airline dismissed the claim on Friday, telling the Telegraph the request was standard aviation practice and adding: “This request does not imply any claim towards to the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands.”
Lufthansa this week announced two special charter flights to the Falklands' Mount Pleasant airport to transport German scientists to a Polar research expedition. The airline filed requests to overfly Argentine airspace and use Ushaia airport in southern Argentina as a diversion in case of emergency.
The Argentine foreign ministry seized on the requests as proof one of Europe's biggest airlines had recognised its claim to the islands. “The relevance of Lufthansa's request to the Argentine authorities is highlighted as it implies the recognition of the Malvinas Islands as part of Argentine territory,” it said in a statement, using the Argentine name for the islands.
But a spokesman for Lufthansa stressed the airline had only requested overflight permission from Argentina and had sought landing rights from the Falklands government.
“We have requested the necessary permission from the responsible authorities in the Falkland Islands for the landing and from the Argentine authorities for the use of Argentine airspace. Requesting landing and overflight rights is a mandatory practice in international air traffic and solely serves the purpose of conducting the charter flight,” the spokesman said.
Argentina has renewed its longstanding campaign to lay claim to the islands over the past year, appointing a minister for them and lobbying at the United Nations.
The Foreign Office said the sovereignty of the islands was not up for discussion. “Our position on the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands is in no doubt. The Falkland Islanders have made clear they wish to remain a part of the UK family of Overseas Territories,” a spokesman said. “There can be no discussions on sovereignty unless and until the Falkland Islanders so wish.”
The 8,500 mile flight from Hamburg to Mount Pleasant will be the longest direct passenger sector Lufthansa has ever flown. The airline will carry German scientists to meet the research ship Polarstern in Port Stanley harbour, after the usual route via Cape Town became unviable because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Separately, Argentina claimed the German embassy had sought its permission for the ship to dock at Port Stanley. The German foreign ministry said it was looking into the matter.
A spokesman for the German foreign ministry said: "The federal government's position on the Falkland Islands has not changed. The actions of private companies are not attributable to the Federal Republic of Germany and have no consequences under international law."