The British Government responded to Spain’s intervention at the UN Fourth Decolonization Committee with a firm statement about its commitment to the people of Gibraltar and their British sovereignty.
Michael Tatham, Britain’s Ambassador and political coordinator at the UN, also reaffirmed in clear terms Britain’s sovereignty over the Rock and its territorial waters.
Reading from a prepared statement, he said Gibraltar’s constitutional relationship with the UK was modern, mature and not based on colonialism, and that the UN’s criteria for delisting were outdated.
Mr Tatham specifically rejected Spain’s assertion that the principle of territorial integrity applied to the decolonisation of Gibraltar. He also dismissed Spain’s suggestion that the people of Gibraltar did not have the right to self determination.
In a lengthy and robust response to the intervention earlier in the meeting by Spain’s permanent ambassador to the UN, Fernando Arias Gonzalez, Mr Tatham said the UK believed that the people of Gibraltar had exercised their right to self determination by accepting the new Constitution.
This in no way diminished British sovereignty over Gibraltar, he added, and the UN needed to assess how it might better take into account this relationship between the UK ad the Rock.
“The United Kingdom reaffirms the longstanding commitment to the people of Gibraltar that the UK will never enter into arrangements under which the people of Gibraltar would pass under the sovereignty of another State against their wishes,” Mr Tatham said.
“The UK Government also confirms that it will not enter into a process of sovereignty negotiations with which Gibraltar is not content.”
The British ambassador nevertheless told the Fourth Committee that the UK remained committed to constructive dialogue with Spain on Gibraltar and other matters.
He said that Britain and Gibraltar both believed that the trilateral forum was the most “credible, constructive and practical” means of strengthening UK-Spain-Gibraltar relations for the benefit of all parties.
The forum protected everyone’s respective positions on sovereignty but enabled improved relations and dialogue on practical matters to the benefit of communities on both sides of the frontier.
He said the UK, like Gibraltar, regretted Spain’s decision to abandon the forum. “However, the United Kingdom recognises that the forum cannot continue without the agreement of all parties,” Mr Tatham added.
“We would like to see cooperation continue in some form and to return to the Trilateral at the earliest opportunity.”
“The United Kingdom therefore stands ready to explore new ways of taking forward dialogue and co-operation on issues of mutual importance by any means that fully reflect the interests, rights and responsibilities of the people of Gibraltar.”
At the close of the meeting, the differences in position between the UK and Spain meant that the two countries had been unable to reach agreement on the wording of their annual consensus resolution to the Fourth Committee.
The Committee agreed to grant both countries an extension and intense discussions were still under way in London, Madrid and New York last night. Mr Tatham said the UK hoped to reach a consensus declaration with Spain, as had been the case for the past 37 years.