Gibraltar row: UK to protest to Spain after warship disrupts Royal Navy parachute exercise

Vessel 'only left after radioing back that it was in Spanish waters'

Britain is making a formal protest to Madrid after a Spanish warship entered the waters around Gibraltar and disrupted a British forces parachute training exercise.

The UK’s ambassador in the Spanish capital will raise the incursion at “a high level” in government as tensions increased over the disputed territory. Military chiefs were forced to suspend the session while the Gibraltar Squadron’s patrol boat HMS Sabre shadowed the Spanish navy ship.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: “There was an incursion into British waters near Gibraltar by the Spanish navy on 18 February, during a Royal Navy exercise. We are raising this at a high level  with the Spanish government and will be issuing a formal protest.”

Military chiefs were forced to suspend the session while the Gibraltar Squadron's patrol boat, HMS Sabre, shadowed the Spanish navy ship.

Warnings were issued to the vessel, which is said to have used a fake name and call sign, but it only left after radioing back that it was in Spanish waters, the Gibraltar Chronicle reported.

According to the newspaper, special forces personnel from the Royal Navy's Submarine Parachute Assistance Group were carrying out training jumps into the sea when the vessel approached.

Tensions over the disputed territory have been rising since the construction of an artificial reef by the Gibraltar government last year which the Spanish said interfered with their fishermen.

Madrid responded by imposing tighter border controls, leading to long delays at the frontier.

Repeated incursions into Gibraltar's waters by Spanish state vessels followed, which led to the Spanish ambassador being publicly summoned to the Foreign Office on a number of occasions.

In November, a British diplomatic bag was opened and searched by Spanish Guardia Civil officers on the border with Gibraltar - an incident the Foreign Office described as a "serious infringement" of international diplomatic protocols.

PA

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