A Spanish-flagged fishing boat that operates in the Falkland Islands was harassed by an Argentine coast guard ship and took refuge in Uruguayan waters, a navy spokesman told Efe Sunday.
The Villa Nores, which is based in the port of Montevideo, sailed Saturday morning from the Uruguayan capital for fishing grounds in the South Atlantic, navy spokesman Sergio Bique said.
The vessel had barely entered the common waters of the River Plate when the Argentine coast guard cutter Mantilla contacted it.
The coast guard vessel demanded information about the fishing boat and warned the captain that he had entered Argentine waters without authorization and should prepare to be boarded.
The Spanish fishing boat sailed at full speed back into Uruguayan territorial waters while the Argentine cutter followed parallel to it in the River Plate’s international zone.
The Uruguayan navy sent a patrol plane to monitor the situation and contacted both vessels to prevent an international incident, the navy spokesman said.
The plane escorted the Spanish fishing boat until it was able to reach the high seas at the point furthest from Argentine territorial waters.
Fishing boats sailing out of Montevideo have regularly been harassed by Argentine navy ships recently, prompting vessels from many countries to stay in Uruguayan waters until they can enter the high seas near Punta del Este, located about 200 kilometers (124 miles) to the northeast, to avoid contact with the Argentine military, the El Pais newspaper reported.
The incident took place amid tensions between the Uruguayan and British governments over President Jose Mujica’s decision to ban ships registered in the Falkland Islands from entering Uruguay’s ports.
Argentina claims sovereignty over the Falklands, known in Latin America as the Malvinas Islands, which have been under British control since 1833.
Argentine troops invaded the Falklands on April 2, 1982, triggering a 72-day war in the South Atlantic over the islands.
Full-fledged fighting in the islands officially began on May 1, 1982, with the arrival of a British task force and ended 45 days later with the surrender of Argentine forces.
The conflict, started by the military regime that ruled Argentina from 1976 to 1983, claimed nearly 1,000 lives - some 700 Argentines and 255 British soldiers and sailors.