Spanish Foreign Ministry briefings to media designed to reinforce Spain’s assertion that the Tripartite Talks are dead were challenged this weekend by the UK Government. In an unusual move Simon Manley, the British Ambassador to Spain, wrote to El Pais to correct their report which suggested that the ad hoc talks were a new phase of dialogue replacing the tripartite talks and that UK had changed its position on talks.
Ambassador Manley states in his letter that the UK position is as it was described earlier this month to the UN Fourth Committee – “there is no change to our strong and continued commitment to the Trilateral Forum for dialogue.”
“In April 2012 UK and Gibraltar proposed ad hoc talks to Spain because Spain had rejected trilateral talks to which UK and Gibraltar remain firmly committed.” He said that whilst there are no formal talks under the Trilateral Forum the UK will continue to try to clear a path for constructive ad hoc dialogue between senior officials.
“The objective of these talks would be to make progress on important matters of mutual interest in ways that reflect the wishes, interests, rights and responsibilities of Gibraltar. This means that the Gibraltar Government would attend ad hoc talks as of its own right, with its own head of delegation, reflecting the fact that Gibraltar has its own constitutional competence on all matters other than defense, foreign affairs and internal security.”
Mr. Manley said that dialogue is taking place with the Spanish Government to initiate these talks.
This month Mr. Manley visited Gibraltar with the Foreign Office’s FCO Director-General, Economic and Consular Sir Julian King. They took part in a range of political meetings, as well as a trip on British Gibraltar Territorial Waters with the Royal Navy “to learn about the valuable work that they continue to do to protect the UK’s sovereignty”.
The letter followed the Chief Minister Fabian Picardo, in an address to bankers describing the El Pais story as “ludicrous”. He said it was not reflective of “where we are” in respect of the potential for ad hoc talks.
“The idea that there will be two delegations one headed by a Spanish official and another of which Gibraltar would form part, headed by the extremely able and talented Jill Morris Director Europe of the FCO, is just too ludicrous for words,” he said last Thursday.
“Both my Government and the United Kingdom Governments have had to issue statements today correcting that nonsense. We will nonetheless keep working towards trying to promote dialogue as the sharpest weapon in the arsenal of dispute resolution,” he said.