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Governor urges Spain to ‘de-escalate’ tensions at sea

Governor urges Spain to ‘de-escalate’ tensions at sea

Spain should cooperate and coordinate with law enforcement and military assets in Gibraltar through “consensual dialogue” to avoid high-risk, potentially fatal situations at sea, Lieutenant General Edward Davis has said.

The Governor of Gibraltar and Commander in Chief was speaking in the wake of last week’s “provocative and unacceptable” incursion in which the Spanish Navy corvette Infanta Elena risked collision with a Royal Navy patrol boat.

In his first interview since being sworn in as Governor, Lt Gen Davis said Britain had “absolute confidence” in Gibraltar’s “irrefutable legal and moral authority” over its sea, land and airspace.

But while the UK would always challenge, record and protest any unlawful incursion, it would do so while seeking to de-escalate potentially dangerous situations.

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In making that point, Lt Gen Davis was full of praise for the personnel who patrol British Gibraltar territorial waters.

“Operating in an environment where your posture is to de-escalate, that’s the hardest place to be,” he said.

“It’s easy to escalate, but de-escalating takes supreme courage and supreme skill.”

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The Governor, a Royal Marine and Special Forces veteran, is a seasoned military commander who has held senior leadership roles not just within the British military hierarchy but within international alliances too, most recently as Nato’s deputy commander for land forces in Turkey.

Faced with situations like the one last week, his frustration was palpable.

“My frustration [is] that the jobs of both Spanish and British law enforcement and military assets is to keep their people safe and secure, and that’s what they should spend their time on and focus on,” he told the Chronicle.

“Events like [last week’s incursion] distract both of us from keeping the people of Spain and the people of Gibraltar safe and secure.”

“Surely we should be focusing on what really matters.”

During a wide-ranging and candid interview, Lt Gen Davis reflected on Gibraltar’s role as a UK military base against the background of conflict and instability in the Middle East and North Africa.

He spoke about the security challenges faced by the Rock, which in common with other European countries is under threat from Islamic fundamentalist extremism.

He also described the challenges of the role of Governor and enthused over his first days in Gibraltar and the warmth of the reception he and his wife Lorraine had received.

“The way that I’ve been embraced by the community is humbling,” he said.

“It genuinely took me back.”

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