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Prince William deployed to Falkland Islands

By the CNN Wire Staff
February 2, 2012 -- Updated 1815 GMT (0215 HKT)
Britain's Prince William is pictured at the controls of a Sea King helicopter during a training exercise in 2011.
Britain's Prince William is pictured at the controls of a Sea King helicopter during a training exercise in 2011.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • British prince deployed as part of search and rescue crew
  • A six-week deployment is conventional for rescue pilots
  • He will not complete any ceremonial duties, Ministry of Defence says
  • Deployment draws criticism in Argentina

(CNN) -- Prince William has arrived in the Falkland Islands for a routine deployment as part of a four-man search and rescue crew, Britain's Ministry of Defence said Thursday.

The prince will begin his Royal Air Force search and rescue duties after undergoing briefings and a familiarization flight, the ministry said in a statement. A six-week deployment to the Falklands is conventional for search and rescue pilots at this stage of their career, it said.

"Flight Lieutenant Wales will be deploying purely in an RAF role and will not be completing any ceremonial roles as the Duke of Cambridge," the ministry said.

However, the deployment has not been without controversy. This week, Argentina's foreign ministry criticized Britain over the matter.

"Prince William is coming ... as a member of the armed forces of his country," the ministry said in a statement. "The Argentinian people regret that the royal heir is coming to the soil of the homeland with the uniform of the conqueror and not with the wisdom of a statesman who works in the service of peace and dialogue between nations."

Argentina invaded the Falklands in 1982, prompting a war in which more than 600 Argentinian and 255 British troops died. After the war, the United Kingdom retained control of the islands, which are off Argentina's coast in the South Atlantic.

News of British plans to deploy the destroyer HMS Dauntless to the region did nothing to dampen the rhetoric from politicians in both countries.

While British officials have said the ship's deployment is routine, according to Britain's ITN news network, some Argentinians see it as a provocation.

British Prime Minister David Cameron has criticized Argentinian officials for their renewed claims to the island.

"We support the Falklands' right to self-determination, and what the Argentinians have been saying recently, I would argue, is actually far more than colonialism, because these people want to remain British, and the Argentinians want them to do something else," he told lawmakers last month.

Demonstrators marching outside the British Embassy in Buenos Aires last month burned British flags and urged Argentina to sever ties with London.

Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has said the British "are preying on our natural resources, our oil, our fish" in the Falklands, known as the Malvinas in Argentina.

Fernandez's campaign has won some supporters. In December, members of the Mercosur trade bloc -- which includes Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay -- said they would stop ships bearing the Falkland Islands flag from entering their ports. The move angered some British officials.

About 2,500 residents live on the islands, in addition to 1,700 people stationed at the British military's Mount Pleasant Complex there, according to the website of the islands' government.

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