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Prince William returns from Falklands

2012-03-22 12:54
 

London - Prince William has returned to Britain from the Falkland Islands following his tour of duty as a military search and rescue helicopter pilot, officials said on Wednesday.

The 29-year-old, second in line to the throne, was sent to the South Atlantic archipelago as a routine part of his Royal Air Force (RAF) duties, but his near seven-week stint angered Argentina.

"He has returned from a standard operational deployment," a Ministry of Defence spokesperson told AFP.

"He will now be on leave for a few days and then he will return to work."

Little information

Britain has held the Falklands since 1833 but Buenos Aires claims they are occupied Argentinian territory and condemned the prince's tour as a "provocation".

William's deployment added to the escalating tensions ahead of this year's 30th anniversary of the war between Britain and Argentina over the islands.

On April 2 1982, the then-ruling junta in Argentina invaded the Falklands, sparking a 74-day war with Britain which cost the lives of 649 Argentine and 255 British troops.

William, the eldest son of heir to the throne Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, arrived in the British overseas territory on February 2.

Since then the prince has not seen his wife Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, whom he married last April in a ceremony watched around the world, and in his absence she has conducted her first solo royal engagements.

Little information was released about what William did in the Falklands, but typical search and rescue duties on the islands for Sea King helicopter pilots include rescuing stranded fishermen, whisking patients to hospital or dropping off supplies to remote areas.

Diplomatic friction

The windswept isles are home to about 3 000 people and the population outside the capital Stanley often live in very rugged and isolated areas.

William, known as Flight Lieutenant Wales in the RAF, has been putting in plenty of hours of flying time in recent months as he bids to win promotion.

The experience he gained in the Falklands counts towards that goal.

Britain has around 1 000 military personnel on the Falklands to ensure their security.

Diplomatic friction between Argentina and Britain has intensified since 2010, when London authorised oil prospecting in the waters around the islands.

Argentina has been seeking support from its South American neighbours. Peru cancelled a friendly visit on Monday by a British navy frigate which has been patrolling the South Atlantic.

Britain noted that the matter was not mentioned during a junior Foreign Office minister's visit to the Peruvian capital Lima on Friday.

Valentine's Day

A spokesperson for Charles' Clarence House official residence said William would return soon to his regular air base on the island of Anglesey in northwest Wales, where he lives with his wife.

"We can confirm that the Duke of Cambridge has returned to the UK having completed a routine operational deployment in the Falkland Islands as part of a four-man search and rescue crew," she told AFP.

"He will return to search and rescue duties at RAF Valley shortly."

There will also be a new face in the house to welcome William home after Catherine acquired a male cocker spaniel puppy during her husband's deployment.

In his absence, the 30-year-old duchess has conducted her first solo engagement and her first public speech as a royal.

She also accompanied Queen Elizabeth II on the first visit of her diamond jubilee tour of Britain marking her 60 years on the throne, a sign of her growing role within the royal family.

The deployment meant William missed the couple's first Valentine's Day as husband and wife, but Kate told children during a hospital visit that he had sent flowers and a card.

- AFP

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