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article imageEarl and Countess of Wessex in controversial Gibraltar visit

By Amanda Payne     Jun 12, 2012 in World
The Rock of Gibraltar has long been a source of dispute between Great Britain and Spain. The visit by the Earl and Countess of Wessex, as part of the British Queen's Diamond Jubilee has served to inflame those tensions.
The couple are visiting Gibraltar for three day but the Spanish government used the visit to highlight a dispute over fishing rights in the waters around the Rock. Spain claims the right to fish the waters but Britain insists the waters belong to Gibraltar and therefore only British fishermen have the right to fish there.
According to El Pais, a spokesman said that "Gibraltar is under attack". For the last two months, Spanish fishing vessels from Algeciras and La LĂ­nea have been unable to put to sea whilst the dispute is settled. A bilateral meeting had been held on Friday and a solution appears to be in the offing which made the statement somewhat surprising.
Prince Edward and his wife, Sophie Rhys-Jones, refused to be drawn into the dispute and simply remained silent when questioned by journalists.
Residents on the Rock were thrilled to be included in the Jubilee celebrations and bunting and flags were hung out to welcome the Royal couple who laid a stone for the Diamond Jubilee Monument, attended a Queen's birthday parade and walked down the Main Street where they were enthusiastically greeted by excited residents.
The visit which began on Sunday June 10 and is due to finish today June 12, follows on from the Spanish Queen Sofia being forced to cancel a trip to the UK to take part in the Diamond Jubilee celebrations. According to the BBC, a statement from the Spanish government said it was"hardly appropriate for her to attend a lunch as part of the celebrations to mark the 60th anniversary of the British monarch's reign".
The dispute over what is just a large rock sticking out into the Mediterranean sea has continued since 1713 when a treaty was signed by Spain, ceding the territory to Britain. Ever since, Spain has wanted it back while Britain refuses to let go. The Rock's situation does make it an ideal site for military operations in the Mediterranean.
However, the Gibraltarians of whatever nationality were more than happy to welcome the Earl and Countess, with one 72-year-old Spanish lady quoted in the Daily Telegraph as saying:
"It's a proud day for Gibraltar to have a member of the royal family here. We are very patriotic."
She was by no means the only person amongst various nationalities who thoroughly enjoyed being able to see the Earl and Countess in person. However, residents complained that in the run up to the Royal visit, the Spanish authorities had slowed the movement of traffic across from Spain to a crawl, with delays of up to three hours.
What appears certain is that the dispute over Gibraltar, which has lasted nearly three hundred years, is not going to be settled any time soon.
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