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ROYAL NAVY: Spanish sabre rattling

A smouldering dispute between Britain and Spain has been reignited with the unauthorised entry into Gibraltar’s territorial waters of a research vessel owned by the Spanish government. The incident led to the third diplomatic clash over Gibraltar since the current Spanish administration took office in December 2011.

In the latest incursion, the research vessel Ramon Margalef attempted to conduct oceanographic surveying activities in British territorial waters. A stand-off continued for 22 hours despite the Spanish vessel being ordered to leave by a RN guard ship. The impasse saw close-quarter jostling between Spanish Guardia Civil and British security vessels.

With the number of unlawful incursions by Spanish state vessels into disputed territorial waters increasing to around 40 per month during the past two years, Gibraltar’s’ Chief Minister has warned that further provocation could result in shots being fired.

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