Monday, April 20, 2009

Royal Navy 'shoos' Spanish Civil Guards patrol boat out of Gibraltar territorial waters

A patrol boat from the Gibraltar Squadron of the Royal Navy recently ordered a Spanish Civil Guard patrol boat to leave Gibraltar waters.

A report in Panorama, one of Gibraltar's online newspapers, today said that the Royal Navy patrol boat approached the Civil Guard vessel and "with its armament aimed at it" ordered the Spanish vessel to leave Gibraltar waters. The incident apparently occurred on Good Friday.

According to Panorama, the Spanish Government recently said it had instructed the Guardia Civil maritime section to "keep watch on the east side of the Rock", where Gibraltar is carrying out a substantial reclamation and development project, and that Spain has described such waters as Spanish.

Panorama added that the Civil Guards contacted their superiors who requested that they leave the area so as "to avoid a major diplomatic incident".

Reports of the incident are a little murky and contradictory. Some reports say the incident occurred on the East side of Gibraltar.... and say that weapons were aimed at the Civil Guard patrol boat.

However, according to reports from Agence France Presse, carried by media affiliates, the incident occurred "when the Spanish vessel was close to the western approach to the Gibraltar airport runway, which juts out into the bay".

AFP also quote a spokesperson for British Forces Gibraltar who apparently said, "it was definitely in Gibraltar waters".

AFP further report:

"The vessel - from Spain's elite Civil Guard police force - was approached by HMS Sabre, which is armed with two machine guns at its stern. The guns were manned as is standard practice. However, they were not pointed at the Spanish vessel."

Territorial Waters Dispute

This is the latest incident in, to-date, only a 'war of words' over Gibraltar's territorial waters.

Last December, the European Union, in an apparent bureaucratic wrangle, accepted a somewhat surreptitious Spanish request to list most of Gibraltar’s territorial sea as one of Spain’s protected sites under EU environmental legislation.

In doing so, the Commission ignored the fact that Britain has jurisdiction over these waters and had already designated part of them as a European protected site in 2006.

The Spanish Government argue that the waters around the Rock are Spanish, although this has always been firmly rejected by Britain.

Reporting in the Gibraltar Chronicle earlier this month, Brian Reyes wrote that Britain "continues to seek ways of reversing the European Commission’s decision to designate Gibraltar’s territorial waters as a European protected site under Spanish responsibility."

In a response to a written question in the House of Lords, Lord Malloch-Brown, Labour’s Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, said the British Government had taken up the issue with officials in Brussels and Spain. But he gave few other details and ducked a question from the crossbench peer Lord Kilclooney on how the situation had come about in the first.

Blanca Luz jumps on the bandwagon

As usual, our friend 'Blanca Luz', that guiding light of Spain's right wing PP opposition party, also known as José Ignacio Landaluce (Blanca Luz for short), has quickly jumped on the latest bandwagon to stir things up once again for Gibraltar.

The member of parliament of the Spanish Partido Popular, Jose Ignacio Landaluce, who (as Panorama also agrees), does not allow any opportunity to go by in his Gibraltar campaign, has said that the Spanish Government cannot allow a vessel of the armed Guardia Civil to be expelled "from its own home", alluding to the waters around Gibraltar as being Spanish.

He says this is a very serious matter that needs clarification in the Spanish parliament, where he intends to raise it. That was no doubt followed by a vigorous 'tub-thump' from 'Blanca Luz'!

Panorama adds:

"Sr Landaluce takes the view that a British patrol launch does not aim its guns at a vessel of the Civil Guards unless it is under strict orders to do so.

He calls for the possibility of Spain changing its policy on Gibraltar until what he terms the legal situation is restored, saying that the legality of the situation can 'only and exclusively' be restored by Britain recognising that the waters surrounding the Rock are Spanish."

Vigorous guard by Royal Navy Welcome

Whilst I very much hope the situation remains calm and we do not see any escalation with further incidents such as this one, especially armed ones, I do hope the Royal Navy's Gibraltar Squadron continue to guard Gibraltar's territorial waters vigorously!

Otherwise... we may need to once again bring our own great Knight... Sir Francis Drake into play!

"So please your Majesty, to singe the King of Spain's beard; it has grown somewhat too long."

Well... if not to singe the King of Spain's beard... at least we could have a go at singeing our friend Blanca Luz a little... but it'll have to be 'where the sun don't shine'... as he has very little left up top! lol

Gibraltar Squadron Royal Navy

HMS Sabre, wearing the pennant number P285, is one of two permanently stationed sea-going units in Gibraltar which make up the Gibraltar Squadron of the Royal Navy. Principally operating to maintain the security and integrity of Gibraltar Territorial Waters, HMS Sabre also contributes heavily to the support of Fleet and NATO assets in the area, provides support to Director Special Forces and offers general Search and Rescue assistance for the local authorities, for police, customs and rescue purposes.

More information on HMS Sabre (P285) @ Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.