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US visitors highlight Rock's strategic role

US concerns over Russia’s naval presence in the Mediterranean could heighten the importance of its relationship with Gibraltar, a visiting US congressman has said.
A congressional delegation has spent the last few days on the Rock as part of a fact-finding mission, as well as to show support for Gibraltar.
This comes against a backdrop of US concerns about Russian warships refuelling in Ceuta.
Spain has granted Russia access to the ports in its enclaves across the strategically important Strait of Gibraltar, where the UK's Permanent Joint Operating in Gibraltar also hosts US ships.
Among the visiting delegation is Democrat Gerry Connolly who, when asked if Gibraltar historic military significance was still important to the US, he replied: “I suppose it could be”.
“I think that military importance has diminished compared to what it once was,” he explained.
“But the geography hasn’t changed and so should anything be required in the Mediterranean and we are already concerned about Russian Naval presence in the Mediterranean which could yet again accentuate how important the partnership is with Gibraltar and the access to Gibraltarian harbours is.”
“One does not know, I can’t see into the future but I wouldn’t ever rule that out,” Mr Connolly added.
Acting Chief Minister Dr Joseph Garcia had welcomed the delegation to the Rock on Monday evening before briefing them on political and economic developments in Gibraltar over the past 300 years during the course of Tuesday.
Yesterday, the visiting congressmen lay a wreath at the American War Memorial on Line Wall Road. The group returns to the United States today.
The visit follows the gradual development of commercial and cultural links between Gibraltar and the United States over the last few years.
This has included the successful establishment of an American Chamber of Commerce in Gibraltar and the establishment of the popular placement programme for Gibraltar students in Washington through The Washington Centre.

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