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Spain remains silent

Members of the British Royal Navy frigate HMS Westminster stand next to a heavy weapon as they are towed towards the port after arriving at Gibraltar bayLONDON — Britain rejected a Spanish proposal to hold one-on-one talks over the sovereignty of the contested British overseas territory of Gibraltar today after Spain issued an appeal for such negotiations to be held “as soon as possible”.

Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo made the appeal in the Wall Street Journal today, but a spokeswoman from British Prime Minister David Cameron’s office said London would not enter into any talks on the subject.

“Sovereignty is clear in our minds,” said the spokeswoman, saying the only talks Britain could envisage would be between Spain and Gibraltar over fishing practices, but not over the enclave’s sovereignty or control of its fishing waters.

A diplomatic war of words over the rocky Mediterranean outpost erupted in July after it built an artificial reef in contested waters using concrete blocks. Spain said the reef restricted access for its fishermen.

Spain lays claim to the territory, which has a population of just 30,000, but which it ceded to Britain by treaty 300 years ago.

“Since the beginning of the current legislature, the Spanish government has urged the UK to resume bilateral negotiations as soon as possible on issues of Gibraltar’s sovereignty, which have been on hold for too long,” wrote Garcia-Margallo.

Spain tightened border controls in retaliation for the reef and threatened to take further action, including a ‚50 border levy. The European Commission said yesterday it would send a fact-finding mission to Gibraltar to examine the legitimacy of those controls. (Reuters)

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