THE SPANISH Foreign Affairs Ministry has sent a diplomatic protest to the British Embassy in Madrid over what it described as ‘three serious incidents’ over the month of August in the waters off the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar.
A note verbale that was dated August 28 and that has been seen by Spanish daily El Pais voiced a ‘vigorous protest’ on behalf of the ministry, which is headed up by caretaker Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares.
The first incident to spark the protest on behalf of Spain regarding Gibraltar, which is subject to a long-held territorial claim by the Spanish government, took place on August 1. A methane tanker under a Panamanian flag suffered a fuel leak in Spanish waters close to The Rock.
The Spanish Foreign Ministry is arguing that the area where the spill happened is subject to special environmental protection, and that the incident involving the vessel, the Gas Venus, happened while it was being refuelled at sea – a prohibited practice in the area known as bunkering.
The second incident, according to El Pais, took place on August 14, when a Spanish customs vessel intercepted a Gibraltar-based ship that was sailing with no navigation lights, sparking protests from the Gibraltarian authorities.
The Spanish Foreign Ministry, for its part, protested the ‘unjustifiable intervention’ of three British vessels during the incident for interfering with the functions of its own customs ship.
The last incident referred to in the note verbale involved a Spanish fishing boat, Mi Daniela. The crew reported having been intercepted by three Gibraltarian police and customs vessels, and receiving nine charges for fishing off the coast of The Rock.
The note sent by the ministry also reiterates Spain’s position on the contested territory, which is located on Spain’s southern Andalusian coast.
“The Kingdom of Spain does not recognize any other rights or situations to the United Kingdom with respect to the maritime areas of Gibraltar that are not covered by Article X of the Treaty of Utrecht of 1713,” the missive reads, in reference to the deal that ceded Gibraltar to Great Britain.
“Spain will continue to exercise its sovereignty in Spanish waters as it has done since time immemorial,” it concludes.
While there has long been friction between the two countries over the issue of Gibraltar, in recent years there have been attempts by both sides to calm the waters while negotiations continue on arrangements post-Brexit.
Talks on Gibraltar are reported to be at an advanced stage, but the ongoing political limbo in Spain in the wake of the inconclusive July 23 general election, and upcoming elections in the British Overseas Territory this coming autumn, suggest that there will still be a while to go until a final deal is concluded.
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