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Moratinos downplays incidents in Gibraltar waters with the Guardia Civil

Wednesday, November 25th 2009 - 09:58 UTC
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Spanish Foreign Affairs minister Miguel Angel Moratinos Spanish Foreign Affairs minister Miguel Angel Moratinos

Spanish foreign affairs minister Miguel Ángel Moratinos said the Guardia Civil continued to cooperate with law enforcement agencies in the sea around Gibraltar, despite Spain not recognising British sovereignty of those waters.

Moratinos was responding to recent press reports that had questioned that relationship and which he described as “politically motivated”.

“There is cooperation between the Guardia Civil and the Gibraltarian and British authorities and we try to meet and resolve any problems that may arise” he said.

Moratinos focused in particular on an article published last week by El Mundo – and subsequently picked up by numerous national and regional media outlets – that cited a British complaint to Spain dated September 18.

In the diplomatic note verbale, the British embassy referred to two Guardia Civil incursions into Gibraltar waters and asked the Spanish government to ensure those waters were respected. In response to the British complaint, Spain had restated its position on the waters.

“There is nothing new here,” Moratinos said, adding that he did not regard the controversy as an important issue. The issue of Gibraltar’s waters has flared up over the past week, largely as a result of three articles published by the right-leaning newspaper El Mundo.

The first referred to tension at sea between the Guardia Civil and law enforcement agencies based in Gibraltar. That story pre-empted a statement by an organisation of Guardia Civil officers which complained of “permanent conflict” at sea off the Rock.

In the second article, El Mundo revealed the ‘Spanish flag’ incident, in which a Royal Navy vessel was accused of using a red and yellow flag for target practice. The flag was in fact a NATO flag and was used for its high visibility, but it nonetheless led to an apology by Britain’s ambassador in Madrid.

Spain’s opposition Popular Party said it would ask both Moratinos and the Minister for the Interior, Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, to provide explanations to the Spanish parliament over recent incidents in the waters around the Rock.

The leader of the PP, Mariano Rajoy, used the flag incident as a stick with which to beat the PSOE administration over its foreign affairs policies. “In order to be respected outside, you need to make yourself respected,” he said. “But no one respects this government”.

Categories: Politics, International.

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