Argentina demands answers from Brazil over Falklands flights

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BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Argentina's government said Wednesday that Britain's Royal Air Force made 18 flights between the disputed Falkland Islands and airports in Brazil over the last two years, calling them a breach of agreements between the two South American countries.

Argentina lost a brief but bloody war with Britain after Argentine troops invaded the South Atlantic archipelago in 1982.

The Argentine foreign ministry said in a statement that it is "concerned" about six flights last year and 12 in 2015. The ministry said it requested an explanation from Brazil's government, reminding it of that country's commitment "to not allow British airplanes or warships based in the disputed archipelagos" in accordance with agreements among member nations of the regional blocs Mercosur and Unasur.

"The Brazilian foreign ministry reaffirmed its support to our country on this issue and said that it was unaware of these flights," the Argentine statement said.

Brazil's foreign ministry had no immediate comment on the issue, but said a statement was being prepared.

News of Argentina's complaint came after office hours in Britain, and that country's Foreign Office and Ministry of Defense did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The war over the islands known by Argentina as the "Islas Malvinas" claimed the lives of 649 Argentines and 255 British soldiers.

During her eight years in power, former Argentine President Cristina Fernandez tried to pressure Britain into sovereignty talks by turning away British ships, encouraging companies to divest from Britain and raising other trade barriers. Tensions have eased since pro-business President Mauricio Macri took office last year promising a less-confrontational stance.

In the biggest breakthrough in decades, Britain and Argentina announced last year that they would work to remove restrictions in the oil, fishing and shipping industries affecting the Falklands. They also agreed to increase the number of flights between the islands and Argentina.

The Falklands are internally self-governing, but Britain is responsible for defense and foreign affairs. Argentina claims Britain has illegally occupied the islands since 1833. Britain disputes that and says Argentina is ignoring the wishes of its 3,000 residents who want to remain British.

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