Britain apologises to Spain over Gibraltar incident

21st November 2009, Comments 5 comments

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.


5 Comments To This Article

  • Canuck posted:

    on 18th November 2010, 00:47:43 - Reply

    LIsten! I hear so much about this Gibraltar problem.
    I remember a few year back, when Panama wanted back the canal zone and the Panama Canal. The Zonians ( the people who were born in the old canal zone ) complain about it, they did not want the americans to return the land to panama, but guess what < they did the right thing and return the land to Panama and the Panamenians. So be decent and return what does not belong to you, learn from the US.
  • fritz posted:

    on 17th December 2009, 05:58:58 - Reply

    You fools! Adolf Hitler gave Franco a once-in-history opportunity to seize Gibrtaltar by joining the Axis when the Brits were flat on their back during 1940. But "El Caudillo" chickened out, thereby not only losing any chance of getting the Rock back, but, far more importantly, contributing to the loss of World War Two and all its lethal consequences for Europe. Since then, England will have Gibraltar "forever", just as specified in the Treaty of Utrecht, nearly 300 years ago. The wages of cowardice are defeat and shame.
  • alec clark posted:

    on 22nd November 2009, 23:21:06 - Reply

    You are right the inhabitants and owners of Gibraltar are not English and neither am I. They are British Gibraltarians who hold the same rights and priveleges from birth as all other Proud Britons, myself included. Spain is a nice country and has a nice culture and nice people but the time of Franco is over and harmony reigns. The only ones to decide their own destiny will be the people of Gibraltar with the support of all European Union Countries.
  • Marien posted:

    on 22nd November 2009, 20:16:22 - Reply

    Ceuta and Melilla were Spanish before the Kingdom of Morocco was created, and the Rock was donated to the UK in illegitimate conditions as the Spanish land belongs to the people of Spain and not its governors. I´m a proud Spanish, I live near Gibraltar and don´t fool yourself, they are not English neither. They import monkeys to the Rock to lengthen the tradition, they don´t speak english and they only know how to complaint. The civil guard has the right to drive and control the Spanish waters for civil and social security as its name says and only the port of Gibraltar belongs to England, there is no 3 miles right signed for them. By the way, did you know that the Gibraltar airport is in Spanish land?
  • Alec Clark posted:

    on 22nd November 2009, 13:58:26 - Reply

    Britain has no need to apologise. Spain never apologises for deliberate incursions in to British waters yet would be the first to complain to the Moroccan Authorities were the same scenario to be played out in Ceuta or Melilla. British Diplomats are to quick to show a soft underbelly and should remember that it is British Gibraltar and British Waters. Let the Spanish Goverment cry their crocodile tears and give them a hanky