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Spain - Gibraltar talks to resume

Thu 21st Oct 2010

Spain, Britain and the British enclave of Gibraltar will maintain their so-called tripartite forum, the Spanish Foreign Ministry announced Thursday, apparently ending a dispute over territorial waters that erupted last week.

Gibraltar said last week it would cancel upcoming technical talks of the tripartite forum after Spanish police vessels made repeated incursions into what it regards as its territorial waters. Spain claims the waters as its own.

Now, however, the three parties to the forum had reaffirmed their engagement to seeking 'mutual trust and cooperation' in the greatest possible number of areas, the Spanish Foreign Ministry said, announcing that technical talks foreseen for late October and early November would go ahead.

The tripartite forum, launched in 2004, is the first to allow Gibraltar to participate as an equal partner in talks on its cooperation with Spain.

It aims at reducing tension between Madrid and the 6.5-square- kilometre enclave on Spain's southernmost tip, which was ceded to Britain through the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht.

Madrid claims sovereignty over Gibraltar, but London rejects such demands, arguing that Gibraltar's 30,000 residents want to remain British.

The tripartite forum does not deal with the sovereignty dispute.

Gibraltar would allow the technical talks to proceed once water issues had been satisfactorily dealt with, the daily Gibraltar Chronicle quoted Chief Minister Peter Caruana as saying.

Spain announced the maintenance of the forum after removing buoys that had been placed in the disputed waters by a Spanish vessel researching maritime currents.

Britain had requested the removal of the buoys. Spain said they were taken away after the vessel completed its mission.

The technical talks would concern issues such as visas, taxation, maritime security, environmental and educational questions, the ministry said.

A meeting was also to be held on the 'political level' to prevent maritime incidents.

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