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Spain nods at military matters in UN speech loaded with history

The UK’s military installations in Gibraltar lie “at the heart” of the decolonisation debate, Spain’s ambassador to the United Nations said yesterday, as he repeated his government’s traditional position on the sovereignty of the Rock in a tempered speech to the UN Committee of 24 yesterday.

As it does every year, Spain cited its “territorial integrity” argument and called on the UK to engage with the Spanish Government in bilateral dialogue to decolonise the Rock, taking into account “the interests” of its population.

But in his address, Spain’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Agustín Santos Maraver, stopped well short of provocative references to tobacco smuggling and tax, as had become the norm in recent years.

There was no mention either of Brexit or the agreements negotiated as part of the withdrawal process, including the tax treaty for Gibraltar and Spain.

Instead, in the restrained language of international diplomacy, Mr Santos bemoaned that Spain was “still suffering…the colonial anachronism…of the last colony in Europe”.

The Spanish ambassador said Madrid sought the return of Gibraltar and the “illegally occupied” isthmus in line with UN resolutions “going back 50 years”.

Mr Santos said that since 1963, Gibraltar had been included on the UN list of territories subject to decolonisation.

“And there it remains, which demonstrates beyond doubt that the relationship between Gibraltar and the United Kingdom is colonial in nature,” he said.

Mr Santos said the recent UN decision in respect of the Chagos Islands, like the Gibraltar question, “demonstrates that the issue of decolonisation remains a live one”.

“Additionally, and though it might seem obvious to mention it, I have to note that in both cases, military installations lie at the heart of the matter,” he added.

The Spanish ambassador said the Spanish Government was certain that the UN would not allow decolonisation by any other means.

The UK, he added, “had failed to comply with its obligations” in respect of the decolonisation of Gibraltar.

“There is no other solution to the dispute over Gibraltar that a process of decolonisation through negotiation between Spain and the United Kingdom on the terms established by the United Nations,” he said.

“It is not up to the administering power to unilaterally declare that the process of decolonisation of a territory has been completed."