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UK takes Spain to task over diplomatic bag tampering

Spanish government assures Britain there will be no repeat of incident on Gibraltar border

The United Kingdom said Wednesday it had received assurances from Spain that there will be no repeat of an instance of tampering with diplomatic baggage. The incident occurred on November 22, when Civil Guard officers at the customs checkpoint at La Linea de la Concepción, on the border with Gibraltar, opened two government bags from the Office of the Governor of Gibraltar addressed to London, which a messenger was taking to Seville airport.

A Foreign Office spokesman said the bags were clearly marked and the British government “takes the principle of official correspondence very seriously.” It declined to state what the bags contained.

“The explanation which the Spanish have given to us was that this was an error at junior operational level at the crossing point between Gibraltar and Spain,” secretary of state for Europe, David Lidington, told the House of Commons. “The more senior Spanish official present put a stop to that interference with our official correspondence as soon as he realized what it was that was happening.”

Quizzed on the matter at Prime Minister’s Questions, David Cameron said the matter was “extremely serious” but had been “reassured it will not happen again.”

Tensions between the UK and Spain over Gibraltar have been simmering for some time. Last week the Foreign Office summoned the Spanish ambassador to protest at the “provocative incursion” of the oceanographic research vessel Ramón Margalef into waters that Gibraltar considers sovereign.

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