Gibraltar patrol boats intercept Civil Guard in new border skirmish

Green groups say scientific vessel that called for help was outside the waters in dispute

A new incident near Gibraltar has underscored the tense relations between Spain and the British authorities in the area.

A Civil Guard vessel that was answering a ship’s call for assistance was intercepted by several Gibraltarian patrol vessels, which made dangerous maneuvers to try to divert the Civil Guards from their course.

The skirmish took place on Tuesday near the waters that the British territory claims as its own.

The Foreign Office has summoned the Spanish ambassador in London, Federico Trillo, to give explanations about an incident that it described as “a serious intrusion.” The British version of events is that the ship had entered Gibraltarian waters.

The British version of events is that the ship had entered Gibraltarian waters

The call for help was issued by a ship belonging to the Spanish Oceanographic Institute, which was surveying the waters right at the limit of the area Gibraltar claims as its own. Two Royal Navy and two Police vessels attempted to move the Spanish ship on from the area, at which point the latter called the Civil Guard for help.

A video shows the dangerous maneuvering by the Gibraltarian patrols, which repeatedly cut across the Civil Guard’s path to prevent it from moving alongside the environmental vessel.

This is the fourth time that London has summoned the Spanish ambassador since Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy took office in November 2011.

The Institute’s ship has been collecting water samples in the same spots, around three times a year, for more than five years.

A spokesman for the green group Verdemar Ecologistas en Acción, Antonio Muñoz, explained that the oceanographic vessel was more than three-and-a-half nautical miles south of Punta Europa, meaning it was “outside the waters in dispute.”

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