Spain PM states intent to protect Gibraltar interests
By Ingrid Bazinet, AFPMADRID--Spain will take “all necessary measures” to defend its interests in Gibraltar, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said Friday, the latest salvo over the British outpost on Spain's southern tip.
August 11, 2013, 12:02 am TWN
“We will take legal measures which are proportionate to defend the interests of Spaniards,” he said after a meeting with Spain's King Juan Carlos on the Mediterranean island of Majorca.
“We will take all necessary measures. Our priority is to discuss, negotiate and find an agreement,” he added.
Increasingly stringent car searches by Spanish border guards have irked Gibraltar, which has accused Madrid of acting in retaliation for the tiny territory dumping concrete blocks in the sea to create an artificial reef.
The Spanish argue that the border checks — which have caused tailbacks of several hours — are necessary to combat smuggling, and that the reef is a deliberate impediment to Spanish fishing vessels in a dispute over territorial waters.
“We can and should carry out border controls like the ones which we have carried out in recent days,” Rajoy said.
Madrid also said it had authorized a British helicopter carrier, the HMS Illustrious, to stop at a naval base in Rota in southern Spain near Gibraltar as it makes its way to a routine maneuver in the Mediterranean.
The helicopter carrier is one of 10 British vessels which will depart on Monday for the mission. A British frigate taking part, the HMS Westminster, will dock in Gibraltar, Britain's defense ministry said.
Spanish media raised alarm bells over the navy's plans. “(British Prime Minister David) Cameron intimidates Rajoy as his fleet visits Gibraltar,” the center-right El Mundo newspaper said on its front page.
Rajoy said the British Navy maneuvers had already been announced in June and that several British naval ships had stopped in Rota in recent years.
“Bilateral ties with Britain are good and we want then to remain so in the future. This has nothing to do with what is going on right now in Gibraltar where I hope common sense will prevail,” he added.