Spain may seek UN intervention over Gibraltar dispute

Reports suggest that Argentina will back Spain in demands for talks on sovereignty

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The Independent Online

Spain will seek to take its dispute with the UK over Gibraltar to the United Nations, with the support of Argentina, according to reports in the Spanish media.

Spain’s minister of foreign affairs, José Garcia-Margallo, is expected to propose that both countries present a “united front” over Gibraltar and the Falkland Islands at the UN, the Spanish newspaper El Pais has said.

Mr Garcia-Margallo will sound out his Argentinian counterpart Hector Timerman at a meeting in Buenos Aires next month as he prepares for a “180-degree turn in policy towards the colony”, the newspaper reported.

Such a move would be seen as an escalation in the diplomatic tensions surrounding the territory.

Argentina is on a two-year term as non-permanent member of the UN’s Security Council and could potentially use its position to include discussions about Gibraltar on the agenda in New York.

The country’s president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, used a meeting of the council this week to renew demands for talks over the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands.

Spain is also considering the possibility of raising the matter of Gibraltar at the UN’s General Assembly or the International Court of Justice at The Hague, diplomatic sources reportedly told El Pais.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: “Our policy on Gibraltar has not changed and is consistent with our policy on other overseas territories.

“Self-determination matters more than territorial integrity.

“The people of Gibraltar have repeatedly and overwhelmingly expressed their wish to remain under British sovereignty.”

The warship HMS Westminster and two other vessels will visit Gibraltar later this month as tensions with Spain increase. The Ministry of Defence has stressed that the visit is a “long-planned” training deployment, but last week the Spanish president, Mariano Rajoy, said that “all necessary measures” would be taken to defend Spain’s interests.

The recent dispute escalated after the Gibraltan authorities sank concrete blocks on an artificial reef just off the coast, which Spain claims will destroy fishing in the area. Work on the reef began 40 years ago but the decision to add the blocks has created friction with the Spanish government, which claims it is tearing the nets of Spanish fishermen.

Madrid responded by beefing up border controls and suggesting that a €50 (£43.30) fee could be imposed on every vehicle entering or leaving the outpost through its fenced border with the mainland.