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UK concerned as Mercosur decides to block Falkland Islands ships

By the CNN Wire Staff
December 21, 2011 -- Updated 2002 GMT (0402 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Mercosur says it will ban all Falkland Islands ships from member nations' ports
  • UK official: "It is unacceptable to engage in an economic blockade of the Falklands"
  • Argentina wants Britain to enter negotiations over the status of the islands

(CNN) -- Britain's foreign minister on Wednesday expressed concern about the Mercosur bloc's decision to block from their ports ships bearing the Falkland Islands flag.

"There can be no justification -- legal, moral or political -- for efforts to intimidate the people of the Falkland Islands," Minister Jeremy Browne said.

Mercosur, or the Common Southern Market, is an economic and political bloc made up of Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay, plus several associate members.

Argentina in recent months has reinvigorated its claims of the British-controlled island.

At Argentina's behest this week, the other Mercosur members announced that they would not allow Falkland Island ships in their ports.

As Browne pointed out, Falkland Islands-flagged ships have arrived in those countries' ports for 150 years.

"Some countries take a different view from us on our sovereignty of the Falkland Islands. It is for the people of the Falkland Islands to determine their future. It is unacceptable to engage in an economic blockade of the Falklands. Mercosur should take the responsible decision and not do this," Browne said.

The disputed Falkland Islands, known as the Malvinas in Argentina, lie off the South American country's coast in the South Atlantic. The islands have been under British rule since 1833.

Argentina invaded the Falklands in 1982, prompting a war in which more than 600 Argentinean and 255 British military personnel died. Britain retained control of the islands after the war.

"The Malvinas are not an Argentine cause, but a global cause," Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner said as she thanked the rest of the bloc for joining her.

Argentina has complained that Britain is profiting from resources on and near the disputed islands, such as oil and fishing. The country wants Britain to enter negotiations over the status of the islands.

Browne said he has asked the British ambassadors in the Mercosur countries to "raise this issue as a matter of urgency" and to find out if the resolution will really be enforced before taking any further steps.

CNN's Claudia Dominguez and Antonia Mortensen contributed to this report.

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