The UK Government will protest to Spain after a Spanish Navy vessel entered British Gibraltar territorial waters unlawfully yesterday morning, just as Royal Navy vessels were engaged in an exercise off the east side of the Rock.
The exercise had been publicly notified several days ago in a Notice to Mariners issued by the Gibraltar Port Authority, which the Spanish Navy would have been aware of.
The notice stated that HMS Sabre and a navy RHIB, both operated by the Gibraltar Squadron, would engage in high speed manoeuvring and blank firing in British waters on the east side of the Rock between 9am and 10am.
Just as the exercise got under way after 9am, however, the Spanish patrol vessel Tornado entered British waters.
It was shadowed by the Royal Navy vessels as it sailed into British waters from the Strait of Gibraltar and past Europa Point.
The Spanish vessel was challenged and departed the area shortly after, although it insisted over VHF radio that it was on a routine patrol through Spanish waters.
“We can confirm an incursion by the Spanish navy occurred this morning. As with all incursions, the Royal Navy challenged the vessel,” a spokesman for the Foreign Office said.
“When challenged, the Spanish navy vessel subsequently left British Gibraltar Territorial Waters.”
“Incursions are a violation of sovereignty, not a threat to it.”
“We have no doubt about our sovereignty over Gibraltar.”
“The UK will never enter into arrangements under which the people of Gibraltar would pass under the sovereignty of another state against their wishes, nor enter into a process of
sovereignty negotiations with which Gibraltar is not content.”
Pics by Johnny Bugeja