19 Jan | Prince Harry to visit Brazil

Prince Harry will visit Brazil in March as part of “Britain’s most ambitious effort to strengthen ties with Latin America in 200 years”, the foreign secretary has announced, playing down differences between the UK and the continent over the future of the Falkland Islands.

William Hague – in Brazil as part of a two-day diplomatic offensive designed to “re-energise” wilting links between the UK and Latin America’s booming emerging economies – said the 27-year-old prince would attend an event on Rio de Janeiro’s iconic Sugar Loaf Mountain. No further details were given.

“The British retreat from Latin America is over,” Hague told the Guardian in an interview at Rio’s Itamaraty Palace.

“The policy of closing embassies, withdrawing diplomatic missions, I have brought to an end and we are reversing it,” he added, pointing out that a new embassy had been opened in El Salvador and a consulate added in the Brazilian city of Recife.

Despite Hague’s upbeat message, a number of significant diplomatic disagreements remain between London and Brasilia, not least over the Falklands Islands, where Prince William is being posted for six weeks from next month in his role as an RAF search and rescue pilot.

On the eve of Hague’s trip to Brazil, Argentina’s foreign minister, Hector Timerman, described Britain as “a synonym for colonialism”, after David Cameron had accused Argentina’s recent rhetoric of being “more like colonialism”.

However, in an interview last October, Hague laid out coalition plans to “build whole new alliances with the emerging powers”. “We have ministers going to places where no ministers have been for decades or even ever,” he said.

Speaking on Thursday, Hague said his visit marked the start of a “strategic dialogue between the UK and Brazil” and “more active engagement with Latin America”.

“There is vast scope for greater co-operation … particularly on immense global issues like climate change and international development.”

“We are not short of things to sell to Brazil,” he added, outlining opportunities for British companies ranging from oil and gas, to infrastructure, management and development, pharmaceuticals and aerospace.

In a keynote speech, set to be delivered on Thursday afternoon, Hague said the global balance of power had entered a “new phase”. “International relations are no longer dominated by a handful of powerful nation states that can dictate terms for the rest,” he said, according to an advance copy. “That era is over.”

Improved relations with Brazil were part of “new chapter in this history”, he added.

“In the late 20th century Britain looked away; four of our Latin American Embassies were shut, diplomats were withdrawn and our links faltered just as your continent began its extraordinary rise,” he said, adding: “The days of our diplomatic retreat from your region are over.”

Brazilian commentators reacted cautiously to talk of a new era of transatlantic relations, pointing to the relatively low level of trade between Brazil and the UK.

“I think we are starting from a lower base than I would like,” Hague admitted. “I think that British relations with Latin America including Brazil have been neglected over the last decade and possibly more. I don’t mince words about that. But we are energetically setting about putting that right. It is true that economically our relations [represent] quite a small percentage of our trade.”

“[But] British companies are already the 4th largest investor in Brazil …and the export figures are improving dramatically.”

Last month tension over the disputed Falklands erupted after the Mercosur trade bloc, which includes Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Brazil, agreed to block ships flying the “illegal” Falklands flag from their ports.

Hague played down an escalating war-of-words in the lead-up to April’s 30th anniversary of the Argentinian invasion.

“Yes, there is a difference of view between Britain and South American nations about the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands but I don’t think there is a desire across South America in general to impose any economic blockade,” he told the Guardian.

“Argentina has in some ways tried to increase tension over this issue but that will never be productive, that will just leave the region more tense. It doesn’t in any way change British policy nor will it ever lead to a change in policy. Our policy is based on the self-determination of the people of the Falklands … and that will remain the case. It will not be productive for Argentina to increase the tension or the rhetoric on this subject.”

Hague said he had also briefed Brazil’s foreign ministry on attempts to bring “significant” sanctions against Iran on Monday, when EU foreign ministers meet in Brussels. Brazil opposes sanctions arguing they are ineffective and mostly harm the civilian population.

“There is not always agreement on the way forwards with Brazil but we’ve had some good discussions,” Hague said.

Asked about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s recent tour of Latin America – which excluded Brazil – Hague said: “I don’t think we can draw too many conclusions from one itinerary, one visit by the president of Iran to South America.” {source}

16 Jan | William and Harry fly to Spain

They bagged themselves several brace of pheasant at Sandringham over Christmas.

But at the weekend Prince William and Prince Harry set their sights on bigger game.

The brothers flew to Spain on Friday for a secret hunting trip to celebrate the end of Harry’s advanced helicopter training.

The royal pair were staying on an estate in the backwaters of rural Cordoba owned by the Duke of Westminster, Gerald Grosvenor, Britain’s third-richest man and one of William’s godfathers.

Finca La Garganta, near the village of Conquista, on the border of Castilla La Mancha, is one of the largest and most exclusive hunting estates in western Europe.

It is teeming with wildlife including wild boar and stag which William and Harry, both crack shots, are said to be keen to bag.

Beaters and packs of dogs were brought in to ensure that the princes did not return home without several ‘kills’ to their name.

The brothers have visited the estate before and last time were said to have bagged a staggering 740 partridge on a single day.

The second and third in line to the throne arrived in Spain on Friday on separate flights as they are not allowed to travel together in case of an accident.

William , 29, who was not believed to be accompanied by his wife, the Duchess of Cambridge, flew into Seville while Harry, 27, arrived on a private jet at Cuidad Real Central later in the afternoon.

They took up residence in a ten bedroom villa with a group of friends and their Scotland Yard bodyguards, one of three luxurious hunting lodges built at the heart of the estate at a cost of several million pounds by the reclusive Duke.

It has marble floors, wooden beams - and its own jacuzzi and sauna.

The estate has just one  – practically impassable – public road, its own petrol station and a fleet of armed security guards driving 4x4s to keep any undesirables at bay.

More than 15,000 hectares in size with a 40 mile perimeter, the Finca also boasts  a private train station and accommodation for nearly 100 staff.

It is understood that William took his then girlfriend, Kate Middleton, to the estate a couple of years ago when they took part in a wild boar and deer hunt involving hundreds of local beaters

According to one local employee, they killed ‘dozens’ of animals that day.

 ‘They were mostly very good shots, ‘ said an estate employee.

Their latest trip was organised  as an early celebration to mark Prince Harry’s graduation as a fully operational Apache attack helicopter pilot.

He is due to be assigned to one of the Army Air Corps Apache squadrons at RAF Wattisham in Suffolk and could be posted back to the frontline in Afghanistan by the end of the year.

The holiday is also something of a farewell for William who is due to be stationed in the Falkland Islands with his RAF Search and Rescue crew for six weeks from next month.

Locals said the princes remained on the estate all weekend and were due to fly back yesterday.

A Clarence House spokesman said : ‘We cannot discuss the movement of the princes as they are on a private weekend.’ {source}