Spain looks to Argentina for common front on Gibraltar

Foreign ministers to explore possibility of working together on the Rock and Falklands disputes

Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo will travel to Buenos Aires early next month with a view to discussing the ongoing crisis between Spain and Gibraltar.

Argentina, which recently assumed the rotating presidency of the UN Security Council, has already offered political support to Spain in the latest diplomatic standoff with the United Kingdom over its overseas colony Gibraltar. The government of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner has announced that it is prepared to organize a joint offensive with Spain over Gibraltar and the Falkland Islands, which has once again become a burning issue for Buenos Aires in the past few years.

But at the same time the Spanish government has its own dispute with Argentina that could come into play as both countries seek common ground to confront London.

When García-Margallo meets with his counterpart, Héctor Timerman, it will also be to discuss the ongoing squabble over the Argentinean government’s expropriation last year of the YPF affiliate of the Spanish oil company Repsol.

But taking the Gibraltar dispute to the United Nations and demanding formally that London give up its sovereignty claims to Gibraltar is just one of the many options the Spanish government is studying. In June, the United Nations Special Decolonization Committee discussed the Gibraltar issue at its regular meeting.

The UN Special Decolonization Committee discussed the Gibraltar issue at its June meeting

Addressing the committee, Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said there would be “no question of Gibraltar being handed over to Spain,” adding that the Spanish government was “bullying” the Gibraltarian government.

Picardo has tried to take Gibraltar off the UN committee’s list of areas that are still considered colonies.

Fernando Arias, the Spanish observer at the UN committee meeting, said that the decolonization of Gibraltar required a negotiated solution, adding that it would be unrealistic to proceed on the basis of a “hypothesis” that attempted to ignore Spain’s legitimate rights in the British overseas territory.

Spain has rejected two referendums held in Gibraltar where vast majorities have voted to remain British. Since 2002, London has refused to discuss transferring Gibraltar’s powers.

On Friday, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy threatened to use “all legal means” to guarantee Spain’s interest in Gibraltar.

Spain’s latest dispute with London flared up last month when Gibraltar began dumping concrete blocks into the sea, supposedly to create a reef for fish at the mouth of the Mediterranean. Spain does not recognize Gibraltar’s claim to waters around the territory.

The presence of the blocks is an obstacle for Spanish trawlers, who have demanded that a solution be reached to allow them to return to their fishing grounds. On previous occasions over recent years, Spanish fishing vessels have been harassed by Gibraltarian authorities.

After the Madrid government claimed the reef restricts Spanish fishing boats, it hit back with tougher frontier checks and a threat to introduce a 50-euro fee for people crossing the Gibraltar border.

It is still unclear whether such a fee would be legal under EU law.

But in a television interview Saturday, Margallo said the entry fee would not be imposed on workers who frequently cross the border for their jobs and pledged aid to the fishermen whose livelihood is being affected by the reef.

Diplomatic sources said that if London does not rein in Gibraltar’s actions, there will be no dialogue with London over Spanish fishing vessels or the entry fee.


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