Spain, Britain, Gibraltar resume talks over the Rock

21st October 2010, Comments 0 comments

Spain, Britain and Gibraltar agreed Thursday to resume cooperative meetings over the Rock, putting aside a row over alleged Spanish "incursions" into its waters.

Gibraltar suspended the talks on October 14 for "technical reasons" after accusing the Spanish authorities of interfering with Gibraltar police operating off the rocky outrcrop.

Gibraltar, Spain and Britain have now agreed to hold talks in the last week of October and first week of November over visas, financial services and tax, maritime communications and safety, the environment and education.

In view of the face-offs in the waters of Gibraltar, they decided to leave the question of police, judicial, and customs cooperation to the politicians, said a statement by the three sides.

The trio, which hold talks in a trilateral forum set up in 2004 to promote dialogue, reaffirmed their commitment to maintaining "a constructive atmosphere of mutual trust and co-operation," the forum said.

Gibraltar, which Spain ceded to Britain in 1713 under the Treaty of Utrecht, has long fuelled tensions between the two countries.

Madrid argues the 6.5-square-kilometre (2.6-square-mile) promontory that is home to around 30,000 people should be returned to Spanish sovereignty.

But its people overwhelmingly rejected an Anglo-Spanish proposal for co-sovereignty in a referendum in 2002.

There have been a series of face-offs in the surrounding waters since last year.

In the latest incident in September, Gibraltar police said they were pursuing a suspect when Spanish officers used "physical aggression" to stop them. Spanish police in turn reportedly accused the Gibraltar police of harassing them as they chased a suspected drug trafficker.

Last week, Gibraltar called on the Royal Navy to deploy ships to confront Spanish incursions into its waters. Britain replied that there was no need because the Navy already had a base in Gibraltar.

Britain claims a strip of three nautical miles (5.5 kilometres) surrounding Gibraltar as its territorial waters. But Spain does not recognise any waters off Gibraltar as belonging to the territory apart from its ports.

© 2010 AFP

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