New Year is traditionally a time spent in our communities with families and friends. It's a time for celebration. And a time for reflection. My own thoughts and best wishes are with you and with our armed forces who - away from their own families at this special time of year - do so much for us around the world, to defend our rights and promote peace, security, and justice. I was delighted to learn that you hold the British forces in the Falklands in such high regard that you honoured them with the Freedom of the Falkland Islands during this, the 20th anniversary year of the conflict.
This year in particular has provided an opportunity for remembrance of all who lost their lives in the conflict. The commemoration events have touched many on the Islands and beyond, culminating in the Duke of York's recent visit and his personal gesture of reconciliation in laying wreaths at both the British and Argentine cemeteries. The ground was of course prepared beforehand in a profound gesture of reconciliation by your Government earlier in the year in their approval of plans for a memorial to the Argentine war dead at Darwin.
Events such as these, and the personal pilgrimage by members of the South Atlantic Medal Association in November, have also highlighted the close bonds between those who fought in the conflict and those who endured it.
The Falkland Islands have a bright future. This year the international community has seen that the Falklands is a prosperous, vibrant and self-confident community. Your new Governor has spoken of an entrepreneurial spirit in the Islands - of new opportunities, and of young people eager to return after completing their education in the United Kingdom. You recognise the importance of economic diversification.
The Islands Plan provides an admirable strategy for the continued development of a sustainable economy, protection of the environment, and improvements to your quality of life. You have achieved so much in recent years and I am sure that your prudent management of affairs will continue to provide a secure platform for future generations.
The United Kingdom's relations with Argentina are good and we continue to work to improve them. I therefore hope that practical cooperation and mutual understanding between the Falklands and Argentina can be further developed where this is in the interests of the Islands and in accordance with the wishes of the people.
But I recognise that the partnership between the Falkland Islands and the United Kingdom is vital to your continued prosperity and security and that your confidence in dealing with your neighbours will be enhanced in the secure knowledge of the guarantees I have given of my Government's commitment to your self-determination and sovereignty.
Let me finish by wishing you and your families a peaceful and happy New Year.