The UK and Argentina have a long-standing dispute over the sovereignty of the Falklands, which led to conflict when the South American country invaded in 1982. The war lasted 74 days and ended with over 900 casualties. and a surrender by Argentina. Former UK Defense Secretary Sir John Nott once described France as Britain’s ‘greatest ally’ during the conflict and Paris provided substantial support to the UK throughout the conflict. .
They showed that Exocet missiles had been sold to Argentina by France before the war before it seemed likely that the two countries would fight each other.
Mike Thomson, Foreign Affairs correspondent for BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ program, detailed: “At the time, few suspected that the regime’s long-standing claim on the Falklands would lead to war, and sale went largely unnoticed.
“But when, in May 1982, these Exocet missiles were used to strike British HMS Sheffield and the Atlantic Conveyor, with the loss of 32 British lives, near panic ensued in London.
At the start of the conflict, the left-wing French president, François Mitterrand, aided Britain by declaring an embargo on French arms sales and aid to Argentina.
He also enabled the British fleet to the Falklands to use French port facilities in West Africa, as well as provide London with detailed information about the planes and weapons his country had previously sold to Buenos Aires. .
Paris has also cooperated with intensive British efforts to prevent Argentina from acquiring further Exocets in the global arms market.
But Mr Thomson claimed that Mr Mitterrand’s policies “had provoked dissent” among the “senior leaders” of the French Foreign Ministry, who apparently did not see the same eye.
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In a 1982 interview with Sunday Times reporter Isabel Hilton, team leader Hervé Colin admitted to performing a particular test that has proven invaluable to the Argentine forces.
He said: “The verification process is to determine whether the missile launcher was functioning properly or not.
“Three of the pitchers failed. We have located the source of the problem and that’s it. The rest was simple. “
Mr Thomson said “it is now clear” that “thanks to the tests they carried out” the Argentines were able to fire Exocets at the Royal Navy from three previously defective missile launchers.