POLITICS
15/02/2012 05:36 GMT | Updated 15/02/2012 19:48 GMT

Falkland Islands: Defence Committee MPs To Visit Disputed Territory

MPs from the Commons defence committee are to visit the Falkland Islands, amid simmering tensions between the United Kingdom and Argentina over the sovereignty of the territory.

A spokesman for the committee confirmed that the MPs would visit the South Atlantic this year. Although no date has been set.

The news was greeted angrily in Argentina. “The English Parliament should leave us alone. This is another provocation. We are not idiots,” Juan Mendicino, president of the association that represents Falklands veterans was quoted in the Times as saying.

The announcement of the visit comes in the run-up to the 30th anniversary of the 1982 Falklands war, which saw Argentinian forces invade the archipelago.

But Julian Brazier, a Conservative member of the committee, said the decision to make the trip had been taken some time ago and was not connected to the current diplomatic spat.

"It's a location where there are British troops and as a such it's an appropriate place for the select committee to visit. It's actually several years since our last visit, but there's no specific date in the diary," he told the BBC.

In December, David Cameron accused Argentina of "colonialism" after South American nations banned ships sailing under the Falkland Islands flag from docking at their ports.

Argentina has also reacted angrily to the deployment of one of the Royal Navy dispatching HMS Dautnless, one of its most advanced destroyers, to the region.

President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has also criticsed the decision to send Prince William to the islands on a tour of duty in his role as a search-and-rescue helicopter pilot.

The dispute took a bizarre turn on Tuesday, when Hollywood actor Sean Penn waded into the row to attack Britain for its "ridiculous demonstrations of colonialism".

Tory MP Patrick Mercer, a former Army officer dismissed Penn's intervention.

"He’s neither British nor Argentine and seems to know nothing about the situation judging by this moronic comment," he told the Daily Mail.

"A good number of his movies have been turkeys, so I suppose we shouldn’t expect much better coming out of his mouth."

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