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UK makes formal protest to Spain over Sunday incursion

The Spanish vessel Tornado shadowed by HMS Scimitar on Sunday. Photo by David Parody

The UK Government made a formal protest to the Spanish Government yesterday over the actions of Spanish Navy patrol boat in British Gibraltar territorial waters last Sunday.

The warship Tornado ordered at least two vessels, the Gibraltar-flag Iver Accord and the Hong Kong-flag Great Victory, to leave the eastside anchorage, even though both vessels were in British waters under the jurisdiction of the Gibraltar Port Authority.

Neither of the vessels complied with the order and the Spanish vessel continued on its way, shadowed by vessels from the Gibraltar Squadron.

The Gibraltar Government reacted furiously, describing the Spanish actions as “a senseless provocation” that risked undermining efforts to foster closer cross-border cooperation in the face of regional threats and challenges.

The UK Government initially played down the incident, insisting there was no incursion despite the Chronicle publishing a recording of the radio exchange between the Spanish warship and the two merchant ships.

But after the Spanish Government itself confirmed that its vessel had issued order to ships “in Spanish territorial waters adjacent to the Rock", the UK Government stepped up its response.

On Monday, the UK ambassador to Madrid, Simon Manley, raised the incident with Spanish Government.

Yesterday, that was followed up with written protests registering the UK’s concern about the developments in Gibraltar waters.

A spokesperson for the UK embassy in Madrid told the Chronicle that a formal protest had been lodged with the Spanish Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

A second protest was sent to the Ministry of Defence in Madrid, the spokesperson added.

Yesterday however, the Spanish Government remained adamant that the crew on the Spanish Navy vessel had acted accordingly as part of the normal duties during a routine patrol “through Spanish waters”.

“The navy ship acted in accordance with the law and within waters under Spanish jurisdiction and sovereignty,” said Spanish Defence Minister Margarita Robles in comments to Spanish state radio RNE.

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