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article imageBritain in tizzy over Spanish shot fired in waters off Gibraltar

By Anne Sewell     Jun 25, 2013 in World
Gibraltar - Britain is upset over the "completely unacceptable" firing of a weapon by a Spanish patrol officer in the waters off Gibraltar on Sunday, in what was called an "illegal incursion by a Guardia Civil vessel."
Britain protested strongly to the Spanish government on Tuesday about the incident.
In a meeting between Europe minister David Lidington and his Spanish counterpart, Inigo Mendez de Vigo, Lidington protested "in the strongest terms" about the incident in British waters on Sunday.
Lidington released a statement after the meeting in Luxembourg saying:
"During an illegal incursion by a Guardia Civil (police) vessel, a Guardia Civil officer fired a weapon."
"I made clear that the discharge of a weapon in or near Gibraltar is completely unacceptable."
"I urged Senor Mendez de Vigo to investigate urgently and to take action to ensure that this will not happen again."
Lidington's statement added that the British Charge d'Affaires in Madrid would be delivering the protest in person to the Spanish foreign ministry and would "request a full explanation" of the incident.
The latest incident follows a spat between Britain and Spain in November last year, over a series of naval incidents around the strategically situated British territory.
The current incident is said to have involved a chase by the Guardia Civil vessel pursuing a Gibraltarian jet ski into the British Gibraltar territorial waters. According to onlookers, large rubber or plastic baton rounds were fired from the Guardia Civil boat and splashed into the water.
While Britain has held Gibraltar since 1713, Spain still wants the territory returned.
According El Mundo (Spanish language), Gibraltar believes it has jurisdiction over three nautical miles around the Rock, and does not recognize Spain's sovereignty over this water. Spain insists that under the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht Britain only has sovereignty over the waters of the harbor itself.
El Mundo reports that Guardia Civil officers chased a jet ski with the suspicion that contraband was being carried by the driver. The driver managed to take refuge in Gibraltar and the agents were forced to leave the area without being able to stop it. Gibraltar's proximity to North Africa makes it convenient for smugglers to travel quickly across the Strait.
In December last year, Digital Journal reported that a British MP, Bob Stewart, had accused Spain of "an act of war," after Spanish naval ships repeatedly entered the territorial waters of Gibraltar.
Commons Leader Andrew Lansley said two Spanish naval vessels had entered the waters off Gibraltar and Sewart told MPs: "May I gently remind the House that an illegal incursion into British Gibraltarian sovereign waters is actually, technically an act of war?"
'What is happening at the moment is wrong and we should do something about it."
However, it seems the spat continues.
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