UK protests after jet-skier fired at in Gibraltar waters


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The Independent Online

A diplomatic row has broken out after Spanish police officers fired several times at a jet-ski rider off the coast of Gibraltar.

The British government protested to Madrid in the “strongest terms” following the “illegal incursion” by a Guardia Civil patrol boat into UK waters around the territory.

Onlookers said police on the Spanish vessel discharged at least four large rubber or plastic baton rounds as it chased the jet-ski.

David Lidington, the Europe Minister, said he had complained to his Spanish opposite number, Inigo Mendez de Vigo, after details emerged of the event, which took place on Sunday.

Mr Lidington said: “I made clear the discharge of a weapon in or near Gibraltar is completely unacceptable. I urged Senor Mendez de Vigo to investigate urgently and to take action to ensure this will not happen again.”

He said he had also instructed the British charge d'affaires in Madrid to protest in person to the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and to demand a full explanation.

The Chief Minister of Gibraltar, Fabian Picardo, said the episode was so serious that he would be sending details to David Cameron.

The confrontation was in a long line of incidents between the two nations over the sovereignty of “the Rock”, which has been a British territory for 300 years. Spanish has never ceded its claim to Gibraltar, although it is strongly opposed by the vast majority of residents.

Tensions flared last year over fishing rights in the area, with police boats confronting Spanish trawlers after they cast their nets near the territory's harbour.

The jet-skier at the centre of this week's clash told Vox, a Gibraltar news website, that he had been fired upon while he was off the Western Beach section of the territory.

“I was in fear for our safety and wanted to get back onto the beach away from the threat.

”Suddenly, shots were fired, and I had to perform evasive manoeuvres in order to avoid being an easy target for the person carrying the weapon, and also to avoid being run down by the substantially larger vessel.“