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Gibraltar : Government condemns illegal Spanish naval incursion into BGTW.

The Government condemns the incursion by the Spanish navy into British Gibraltar Territorial Waters (BGTW). This is yet another senseless provocation that achieves nothing expect generating an atmosphere of mistrust and hostility which benefits nobody.

The Spanish Foreign Ministry is now itself on record as having confirmed that the communications in question were made by their naval vessel because the commercial ships in question were, according to them, inside Spanish waters. The reality is that the merchant vessels were in BGTW when they were instructed to move. In other words, the Spanish vessel sought to exert jurisdiction and control in an area of water where they are not legally entitled to exert such control. Given that Madrid itself has confirmed that the motive behind the incursion was in pursuance to their sovereignty claim over Gibraltars waters, the incident was therefore indisputably a breach of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Article 19 of UNCLOS states that Passage is innocent so long as it Is not prejudicial to the peace, good order or security of the coastal State. It is clear that the attempt to interfere with merchant shipping by instructing the merchant vessels to move on the basis that the waters are Spanish is prejudicialto the peace, good order and security of the coastal State. Moreover,the pictures show that the weapons on the vessel were uncovered and manned.

The Government therefore maintains that this was an illegal incursion which aimed to make a political point about the sovereignty of our waters. While this action in itself may not be a threat to sovereignty, because the waters remain British in international law,the reality is that it represented a challenge to our sovereignty and that it purported to undermine our sovereignty. The Straits of Gibraltar are an important strategic location for western interests. There are military movements as well as illegal movements of people and goods that need to be monitored and controlled. Gibraltar plays a key role in upholding western interests in the region. It is nonsensical that Spain should deploy one of its warships to play war games in British waters at a time when there are serious threats in this area which are well known. The Spanish actions serve as a dangerous distraction to wider military and security interests in the region.

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Publication:Mena Report
Geographic Code:4EXGI
Date:Feb 20, 2019
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