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Gibraltar protests over yet another Spanish Naval incursion

Source: Gibraltar Chronicle - Sat 4th Jul 2015
Gibraltar protests over yet another Spanish Naval incursion

A Royal Navy speedboat received a blow from a heavy oceanographic probe as it tried to prevent a Spanish survey ship from taking readings in British waters yesterday.

No one was injured in the incident but the actions of the Spanish ship were described as "reckless and dangerous" and drew a rapid diplomatic protest from the British Government.

Chief Minister Fabian Picardo called for a "clear and robust" response from Britain to avoid any further repetition, even as he warned that such incidents could increase over the summer and in the run-up to Spain's general election.

The research ship Ángeles Alvariño, operated by the Spanish oceanographic institute, was attempting to collect samples and readings inside British Gibraltar territorial waters.

The vessel – and others like it – has been here before in the past as part of Spain's efforts to exert jurisdiction within a Spanish EU-designated nature site that overlaps into British waters.

Every time it enters, Royal Navy vessels in Gibraltar, together with other agencies, attend and prevent it from carrying out the research work, which is unlawful in British waters.

Within hours of the events at sea yesterday, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office had lodged a formal protest at senior level with the Spanish Ministry for Foreign Affairs in Madrid.

"We have protested the incursion directly to the Spanish authorities at a senior level, making clear that such violations of the UK's sovereignty are unacceptable," said a spokesman for The Convent.

"We have also reiterated our concern about the dangerous manner in which the Angeles Alvariño acted."

"The vessel deployed a survey probe which struck a Royal Navy rigid inflatable hulled boat. It is very fortunate that no-one was hurt and no serious damage was done."

"We made clear our disappointment that this was a repeat incident of the one in October last year."
The incident had been closely monitored at a very senior level in Spain even prior to the British complaint. Just before 1pm, while the Spanish vessel was still in British waters off the Rock, Ignacio Ybañez, Spain's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, tweeted that the Ángeles Alvariño was conducting scientific studies "in Spanish waters in the bay of Algeciras".

Yesterday's incident unfolded in the Bay of Gibraltar and off Europa Point.

There was a tense standoff involving the research ship, a Guardia Civil vessel and several vessels from Gibraltar, including patrol boats from the Royal Navy, the Royal Gibraltar Police and the Gibraltar Defence Police.

Navy personnel read out warnings to the Spanish vessel urging it to leave. In response, crew on the Ángeles Alvariño said they were conducting scientific work in Spanish waters. The Spanish vessels finally departed British waters after about three hours.

"This was, once again, dangerous and reckless nonsense no doubt orchestrated and applauded at the highest political levels of the current Spanish Government in pursuit of their claim to the sovereignty of our waters, an objective which it will never achieve," the Chief Minister said.

"It's not going to happen legally or factually, however many probes they deploy and even former Spanish Ambassadors to the UN have recognised that."

"Once again, today, lives have been endangered and police and navy time has been wasted by these useless and needlessly provocative activities."

Mr Picardo said the fact that the incident was unfolding as authorities in Gibraltar held a minute's silence for the victims of the terror attack in Tunisia demonstrated "extraordinary crassness" and "an unforgiveable lack of common decency".

According to The Convent, there have been 218 unlawful incursions into British waters by Spanish state vessels during the first six months of 2015.

"The UK continues to take very seriously any attempt by Spain to exercise jurisdiction or control within British Gibraltar Territorial Waters," the spokesman for The Convent said.

"Incursions are a violation of sovereignty. They do not weaken or undermine the international legal basis for UK sovereignty over British Gibraltar Territorial Waters."

Recommended Reading :

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* Gibraltar would seek to preserve EU ties if UK voted to leave

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