Britain apologises to Spain over Gibraltar incident
Britain apologised to Spain on Friday after a Royal Navy ship shot at a buoy bearing the colours of the Spanish flag during a military exercise off Gibraltar, the Spanish foreign ministry said.Madrid - Britain apologised to Spain on Friday after a Royal Navy ship shot at a buoy bearing the colours of the Spanish flag during a military exercise off Gibraltar, the Spanish foreign ministry said.
The British ambassador was summoned by Spanish authorities after the incident on Tuesday off Gibraltar, which is a disputed British territory on Spain's southern tip, the ministry said in a statement.
The ministry said it had "protested" and "asked for explanations" from the ambassador, Giles Paxman, following the incident around five nautical miles off Gibraltar.
Paxman said the incident was a misunderstanding and the buoy used as a target was not carrying the Spanish flag, even if it was bearing "the colours yellow and red", which are the colours of the flag, the ministry said.
"The British ambassador presented his apologies for the error of judgment and the lack of sensitivity and promised an inquiry would be opened to determine who was responsible," the Spanish government said.
Spanish newspaper El Mundo said confrontations between the Royal Navy and Spain's Civil Guard police force have been on the rise for several months in the waters around Gibraltar.
Spain does not recognise any waters off Gibraltar as belonging to the British territory, apart from the territory's ports.
Madrid points to the wording of the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht -- under which Gibraltar was given up -- which says the "rock" was ceded to England for ever.
However, London claims sovereignty over a strip of water measuring three nautical miles surrounding the territory, as it does with any other territory.
Gibraltar has long fuelled tensions between Spain and Britain, with Madrid arguing it should be returned to Spanish sovereignty.
London has said it will not renounce sovereignty of the territory against the wishes of Gibraltarians.