The United Nations Special Committee on Decolonisation [the C24] is considering a timetable for formal visits to the remaining 17 territories on the UN’s list of colonies – but will likely seek to leave Gibraltar and the Falkland Islands off the itinerary.
The proposal for a timetable was discussed at a meeting in New York yesterday and drew into sharp relief the UN’s longstanding refusal to send fact-finding missions to both British territories.
Although the plan has yet to be agreed and finalized, committee chairman Rafael Darío Ramírez Carreño, from Venezuela, said the Rock and the Falklands would not be on the list.
“These are sovereignty disputes,” he said, “It’s not a question of self-determination.”
That position was supported by some delegations but rejected by others, who indicated that the C24 had an obligation to analyse all the territories on the UN list.
It was also firmly rebutted by Chief Minister Fabian Picardo, who tweaked his prepared speech to reflect the discussion in the chamber.
Mr Picardo said he would write to the chairman to set out in detail Gibraltar’s position on the matter. But he left no doubt as to his immediate reaction.
“I will be writing to you about the things you have said this morning about visiting mission to Gibraltar, which in our view defy logic and are unacceptable to the government and people of Gibraltar, and which the General Assembly itself has previously rejected,” he told the chairman.
Later in his speech, the Chief Minister described the C24’s approach to Gibraltar as a “failure of its own sacred mission”.
“But your failure will not become our failure,” Mr Picardo told the Committee.
“We will not change our position because you fail to act as the UN treaties require and as the Resolutions of the General Assembly demand.”
“We will not give up in order to make the work of this Committee easier.”
“We will not roll over and allow the Spanish claim to our land to succeed because we are worn down by years of this Committee’s failure. That is not going to happen.”
Despite his firm stance toward the C24 itself, Mr Picardo was more nuanced when referring to Spain’s current approach to Gibraltar.
Mr Picardo rejected Spain’s insistence for joint sovereignty, but appreciated the recent change in tone since Alfonso Dastis became Foreign Minister in Madrid.
Even so, he was not dropping his guard.
“Sr Dastis may represent a different tone, but he represents the same objective, a Spanish Gibraltar despite the contrary wishes of the people of the Rock,” Mr Picardo said.
He added that former Foreign Minister of Spain, Jose Manuel García-Margallo, had stated immediately after the result of the Brexit referendum that the Spanish flag would fly over Gibraltar within four years.
“Ironically, he was removed from his post soon after,” he told the Committee.
In an address that he dedicated to the late co-founder the GSLP Juan Carlos Perez, Mr Picardo fervently urged the Committee to immediately remove Gibraltar from the list of non-self governing territories.
He said Gibraltar’s response to joint sovereignty was “a crystal clear, thank you but no thank you.”
Flanked by Deputy Chief Minister, Dr Joseph Garcia, and Attorney General Michael Llamas, Mr Picardo reminded the C24 that Gibraltarians had first chosen to remain British 50 years ago, a reference to the 1967 referendum.
“Democrats must accept the results of free and fair choices made at the ballot box,” he said.
Mr Picardo added: “In 2006 we exercised our right to self determination to choose our current Constitution as a method of decolonization, representing the tailor made Fourth Option available to us under the [UN] Resolutions,” Mr Picardo said.
“Because, Mr Chairman, our right to self determination is not vitiated by a non-existent doctrine that sovereignty disputes suspend application of inalienable rights.”
Prior to his intervention Mr Picardo and Dr Garcia had a working breakfast with the UK’s permanent representative to the UN, ambassador Matthew Rycroft.
Mr Rycroft later tweeted that the “ UK stands shoulder to shoulder @UN with #Gibraltar”.
However, the British delegation did not intervene at the C24 session itself.
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