Prince William arrives in Falklands

 

The Duke of Cambridge has arrived in the Falklands amid simmering tensions between Britain and Argentina over the disputed islands.

His arrival, ahead of a tour of duty as an RAF search and rescue pilot, comes as the Royal Navy prepares to send one of its most advanced new warships to the area.

It has already sparked controversy in Argentina which claims the prince will be wearing the uniform of a "conqueror" when he deploys.

The Ministry of Defence said William's six-week posting to the remote outcrop, which Buenos Aires calls Las Malvinas, was part of a "a routine operational deployment".

The Duke - who has flown to the archipelago as part of a crew of four RAF personnel - will attend a series of briefings and take part in a "familiarisation flight" before he begins his search and rescue work.

A Ministry of Defence (MOD) spokesman said: "MOD can confirm Flight Lieutenant Wales, as part of a four-man Search and Rescue (SAR) crew, has arrived in the Falkland Islands on a routine operational deployment and will shortly take up SAR duties post a period of briefings and a familiarisation flight."

The Duchess, who will not be joining her husband abroad, will have the latest addition to their family - a male cocker spaniel puppy - for company while he is away.

The Duke's deployment in the Falklands comes amid a diplomatic war of words between the British and Argentine Governments.

It follows an announcement that HMS Dauntless, an ultra-modern Type 45 destroyer, is due to set sail for the South Atlantic on her maiden mission in the coming months.

She is expected to replace frigate HMS Montrose in the region.

The Royal Navy has rejected suggestions the decision to send the destroyer to the area was a riposte to increased tensions over the sovereignty of the Falklands and said the ship's deployment was long planned.

William's posting has been similarly defended by the MoD as part of a "normal" squadron rotation.

But it has been branded a "provocative act" by Argentina.

In the latest salvo, the country's Foreign Ministry said it "rejected the British attempt to militarise (the) conflict" and expressed regret that an heir to the throne would arrive wearing "the uniform of a conqueror".

David Cameron and Argentine president Cristina Fernandez have previously accused each other of "colonial" behaviour, while Argentine official Sebastian Brugo Marco last year said the country could not ignore the "political" implications of William's deployment.

General Sir David Richards, the Chief of the Defence Staff, dismissed the claims, saying: "I can absolutely tell you it wasn't and isn't designed to be."

William, who has worked as a Sea King pilot while based at his north Wales home on Anglesey, is following in the footsteps of his younger brother, Prince Harry, who was sent to Afghanistan as a forward air controller in 2008.

The Argentinean government today claimed William's deployment was a distraction from Britain's "internal problems".

Vice-president Amado Boudou told the country's La Red radio station that the move was a case of "bravado" to mask high unemployment and the prospect of Scottish independence.

His words follow reports that Buenos Aires is putting pressure on a Chilean airline to stop weekly flights to the Falklands which pass through Argentine airspace.

David Cameron's official spokesman said such "threats" were "not new," adding: "Clearly, we hope that that flight will not be cut, but there are also RAF services from London to the Falklands and these will continue."

PA

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