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Spanish research ship leaves Gibraltar waters amid diplomatic storm

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The Spanish research ship involved in a string of tense incursions over the weekend appeared to cut short its work yesterday, sailing from Gibraltar waters just after midday under stormy skies and amid a brewing diplomatic row.

As the vessel sailed out into the Alboran Sea in heavy rain and rough seas, diplomats worked to analyse the sequence of events that sparked the first spat between London and Madrid since Spain’s new Foreign Minister, Alfonso Dastis Quecedo, took office earlier this month.

Both governments said they would file diplomatic protests over the events at sea, with UK MPs insisting that Britain should take a firm stance over the incursion.

Tory MP Bob Neill, the vice chairman of the Gibraltar group in the House of Commons, tweeted that the “strongest possible protest by [the] FCO [is] required.”

“Clearly [the] change of Spanish Foreign Minister has changed nothing.”

The Angeles Alvariño, which is operated by Spain’s state Oceanographic Institute, had been scheduled to be surveying an underwater canyon in the Bay of Gibraltar through to Friday.

But the Spanish vessel entered British waters several times without permission since last Friday, prompting the Royal Navy’s Gibraltar Squadron to challenge it repeatedly to cease operations.

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