Spain to cooperate with Gibraltar
26 October 2004, MADRID - The Spanish and British foreign ministers are to meet Wednesday in Madrid for talks on the thorny issue of sovereignty of the dependent territory of Gibraltar.
26 October 2004
MADRID - The Spanish and British foreign ministers are to meet Wednesday in Madrid for talks on the thorny issue of sovereignty of the dependent territory of Gibraltar.
Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos is expected to tell British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw that Madrid is prepared to cooperate with Gibraltar even though this will not bring it closer to regaining sovereignty over the colony, political sources said.
According to British diplomatic sources Straw and Moratinos will tackle "a broad agenda ... in which Gibraltar will also feature" alongside efforts to ratify an EU constitution, Iraq and the post-election situation in Afghanistan.
Iraq aside - Spain's new Socialist government withdrew its troops weeks after taking office in April but retains a contingent in Afghanistan - there exists "a lot of common ground" between London and Madrid, the sources stressed.
Ownership of Gibraltar, which Spain ceded to the British in the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht, has been a regular source of friction between both countries.
Spain is still eyeing the return of the tiny territory on its south coast which was a strategic military base during World War II.
Gibraltarians have emphatically rejected recent British and Spanish discussion of future joint sovereignty and voted overhelmingly in a 2002 referendum to remain under British rule.
Tensions are not as great as they were after the introduction of a 1969 constitution which introduced self-government for Gibraltar.
That prompted Spain to close the border gate for 16 years.
Nonetheless, Moratinos said in August that "the question of Gibraltar is fully open" and added he wanted "a realistic solution to Europe's last vestige of colonialism".
Recent visits by British nuclear submarines have sparked Spanish ire, as did a June visit by Princess Anne, the first British royal to make an official visit in 50 years. Spain said her presence was "inopportune".
In August, Spain objected as Gibraltar, whose population is just 27,000, marked the tercentenary of British rule and invited Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon to take part in the celebrations.
Madrid denounced Hoon's presence as verging on "18th century colonialism".
Gibraltar's Chief Minister Peter Caruana retorted that Spain should mind its own business.
Caruana was in London last week to discuss widening a prospective British referendum on the EU constitution to include Gibraltarian voters, who for the first time participated in European elections in June after Britain extended its electoral law to cover Commonwealth citizens living in Gibraltar.
The arrival of Socialist Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero in April at the head of an avowedly left-wing Spanish government has radically altered the political dynamic between both countries.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair enjoyed a close seven-year relationship with conservative Jose Maria Aznar and both men unswervingly backed the war in Iraq.
But Zapatero told Blair at a summit in Hungary earlier this month that the war had been a "massive mistake".
[Copyright EFE with Expatica]
Subject: Spanish news