British navy orders Spanish vessel out of Gibraltar

21st April 2009, Comments 0 comments

The Spanish police vessel was close to the western approach to the Gibraltar waters – an area which Madrid contends are Spanish waters.

GIBRALTAR – A Royal Navy patrol launch stationed in Gibraltar ordered a Spanish police vessel to abandon the waters around the British territory, a British military spokesman said Monday.

The incident occurred on 10 April when the Spanish vessel was close to the western approach to the Gibraltar airport runway, which juts out into the bay.

"It was definitely in Gibraltar waters," said a spokesman at the Command British Forces Gibraltar.

The vessel – from Spain's elite Civil Guard police force – was approached by HMS Sabre, which is armed with two machine guns at its stern.

"The guns were manned as is standard practice," said the British military, adding however that they were not pointed at the Spanish vessel.

Spanish media said the Civil Guards contacted their superiors who told them to leave the Gibraltar area to avoid a diplomatic incident.

Madrid contends that the waters around the territory, off southern Spain at the western gateway to the Mediterranean Sea, are Spanish – a claim that Britain rejects.

An opposition Popular Party lawmaker, Jose Ignacio Landaluce, saying Spain cannot allow a Civil Guard vessel to be expelled "from its own home", intends to raise the issue in the Spanish parliament.

Spain ceded Gibraltar to Britain in 1713 under the Treaty of Utrecht but has retained a constitutional claim should Britain renounce sovereignty – a move that London says it will not happen without the consent of Gibraltarians.

Now a haven for tourism, shipping and offshore banking because of its favourable tax laws, its inhabitants overwhelmingly rejected an Anglo-Spanish proposal for co-sovereignty in a 2002 referendum.

AFP / Expatica

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