The British Foreign Ministry has accused Spain of committing a “clear violation” of the international law of the sea after Spanish state vessels “repeatedly” entered Gibraltar territorial waters without notifying Gibraltarian authorities on Sunday.
The accusation may be connected to an incident that occurred at around 3am when a boat and a helicopter belonging to Spanish security forces were pursuing another Spanish vessel.
The UK Foreign Office said the fact that Gibraltarian authorities were not notified about the pursuit was “completely unacceptable”
According to a Royal Gibraltar Police report, the security forces deployed another smaller boat that reached the coast of Sandy Bay to try to detain the pursued while the helicopter hovered over the area.
A Foreign Office statement said the boats “were in pursuit of vessels who may have been committing crimes.”
Britain said it “understood” this action, but the fact that Gibraltarian authorities were not notified about the pursuit was “completely unacceptable and unlawful under the international law of the sea.”
“These repeated incursions into British Gibraltar Territorial Waters are a clear violation of UK Sovereignty by another EU country and we will be raising this as a matter of urgency with the Spanish authorities,” said Minister of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Hugo Swire on Sunday.
The Spanish government said that in no way could the UK’s allegations of “an illegal entry of Spanish security forces vessels into Gibraltarian waters” be categorized as an “incident” because Spain recognizes the area in question as its territorial waters and thus committed no violation. “There is no incident. Spain recognizes these waters as Spanish,” responded Foreign Ministry sources.