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Britain Summons Spanish Ambassador Over Gibraltar 'Incursions'

11/15/2012 7:15 PM ET

British Foreign Office said Thursday it had summoned the Spanish ambassador to lodge a formal complaint about the recent incursions by Spanish navy and customs ships into waters around the British territory of Gibraltar.

According to the Foreign office, Spanish ambassador to London, Federico Trillo, was summoned by Permanent Under Secretary of State Simon Fraser to hear Britain's complaint about the Spanish incursions.

Separately, Britain's Minister for Europe David Lidington said in a statement issued Thursday that Spanish state vessels had made two "serious incursions" into Gibraltar's waters earlier this week

According to Lidington, a Spanish naval vessel had patrolled Gibraltarian waters for several hours on Tuesday. He added that a Spanish customs vessel had attempted later on Tuesday to seize a civilian boat off Gibraltar's coast, prompting a Royal Gibraltar patrol boat to intervene.

"The UK has repeatedly made diplomatic protests to Spain over attempts by Spanish state authorities to exercise jurisdiction in British Gibraltar territorial waters. Yet on November 13 there were two further serious incursions. I condemn these provocative incursions and urge the Spanish government to ensure that they are not repeated," Lidington said in the statement.

Warning that such incursions would only serve in damaging "the prospects of developing a harmonious and collaborative relationship between Gibraltar and Spain," Lidington said it was in the best interests of all parties concerned "to avoid incidents which could put at risk the safety of those operating in British Gibraltar territorial waters."

Separately, Spanish foreign ministry also summoned British Ambassador to Madrid, Giles Paxman, on Thursday to hear its concerns over some recent incidents involving Spanish fishing boats and Gibraltar police in Spanish waters near Gibraltar. Paxman's deputy, Daniel Pruce, attended that meeting on behalf of the British ambassador.

Gibraltar is a British overseas territory located on the southwestern tip of the Iberian Peninsula at the entrance of the Mediterranean, overlooking the Strait of Gibraltar. It is a densely-populated area with city status and is home to almost 30,000 Gibraltarians.

The latest developments stem from a long-running dispute between Spain and Britain over Gibraltar, which was ceded to the British in 1713 under the Treaty of Utrecht. The recent escalation in the territorial dispute had prompted Queen Sofia of Spain to snub an invitation from the Queen Elizabeth of Britain to attend her Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

Spain still claims sovereignty over the disputed territory and refuses to recognize Gibraltar's right to its territorial waters. Britain, however, insists that Gibraltar is guaranteed that right by UN law and a previous treaty between the two countries.

by RTT Staff Writer

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