Spanish foreign minister may visit Gibraltar

8th July 2009, Comments 0 comments

The historic visit to Gibraltar will only take place if the disagreement on maritime cooperation regarding police and environmental issues is resolved beforehand.

Madrid – Spain's foreign minister will make a historic visit to Gibraltar on 21 July if a disagreement over maritime cooperation is resolved before then, the contested British territory's chief minister said Tuesday.

On that day, Gibraltar will host the third ministerial level meeting of the so-called tripartite forum between Spain, Britain and Gibraltar which seeks to work together on issues of concern to the residents of the territory on Spain's southern coast.

But Gibraltar chief minister Peter Caruana said Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos would attend the meeting only if an agreement on maritime cooperation regarding police and environmental issues is reached beforehand.

Caruana was speaking at a news conference at a Madrid hotel at the end of a three-day meeting of representatives from Britain, Spain and Gibraltar to prepare for the tripartite forum.

If Moratinos attends the meeting it would be the first-ever visit by a Spanish foreign minister to Gibraltar.

Caruana said a visit by the Spanish foreign minister to Gibraltar would be "a step forward and a constructive gesture".

"I think it would be really good if he came as it would be another sign of the modernisation of Europe in the 21st century," he added.

Gibraltar was ceded to Britain under the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 but Spain still claims sovereignty over the territory.

Reaching a maritime cooperation agreement is difficult because the Spanish government claims that Gibraltar has no territorial waters outside its internal port limits while Britain firmly rejects this and claims three nautical miles around the Rock as British territorial waters.

The tripartite forum was set up in 2006, two years after Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero came to power.

It has led to better airline connections to Gibraltar, improved mobile connections, easier cross-border traffic and the end to a long-running spat over pension payments to former Spanish dockers on the Rock.

The first ministerial level meeting of the forum was held in Spain in Granada, Spain while the second was held last year in London.

AFP / Expatica

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