Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy signalled on Friday that the ‘foundation for dialogue’ with the UK and Gibraltar had now been laid. Rajoy was speaking after two meetings with UK Prime Minister David Cameron on the margins of the G20 summit meeting in St Petersburg.
It also followed a statement on Thursday in which Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said Gibraltar had nothing to fear from the ‘ad hoc’ formula for talks.
“It’s evident that there are problems, but it’s also evident that we have to engage in dialogue and talk” PM Rajoy told reporters at a press conference in Russia, “We have established the foundation for dialogue which…I am absolutely convinced will end well for everyone”, he added.
For days now the three governments have been edging ever closer to a new framework for talks that could help defuse tensions while respecting each party’s red lines on issues such as sovereignty.
But the development came against the background of continued queues at the Spanish border, where motorists waited over two hours to enter Gibraltar yesterday morning and around three to leave the Rock by evening.
PM Rajoy revealed that he held two meetings with PM Cameron, the first late on Thursday after the G20 leaders’ dinner, the second on Friday morning.
The G-20 gathering marks the first time Rajoy and Cameron have met face-to-face since the current dispute arose, though they discussed the matter by telephone last month.
The Spanish Prime Minister said that it was evident that there was a problem and that each side had its own position. But he sent a clear signal that the tone of the exchanges with PM Cameron had been positive.
“The conversations have been useful and our personal connection is good,” Rajoy said. “We’ve agreed to carry on talking”.
The Spanish Prime Minister did not reveal details of what the ‘ad hoc’ will entail in practice, or when the first meetings might take place. Responding to questions, he told reporters that he had to remain “prudent” at this stage.
The ‘ad hoc’ was first proposed to Spain by Foreign Secretary William Hague in April last year and with Gibraltar’s agreement. In an address to the Spanish Congress this week, Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo said Spain accepted the proposal “…without changing a single comma.”
That statement was welcomed by the Chief Minister Fabian Picardo during a ministerial speech broadcast by the Gibraltar Broadcasting Corporation on Thursday evening.
Picardo said there was “no question” of sovereignty being discussed under the proposed ‘ad hoc’ talks. “I want to be crystal clear about this proposed dialogue,” he said. “There is no question of the sovereignty or future of Gibraltar being raised or discussed at these talks.”
Picardo said he had “worked closely” with Mr Hague to elaborate the ‘ad hoc’ formula, details of which have not been made public as yet.