British government protests 'in strongest possible terms' after jetski shooting incident in Gibraltar waters by Spanish Guardia Civil - La Treizième Étoile: A blog on EU politics
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British government protests 'in strongest possible terms' after jetski shooting incident in Gibraltar waters by Spanish Guardia Civil

Saturday, 29 June 2013
The British Government have formal protested “in the strongest possible terms” after shots were reportedly fired by a Spanish Guardia Civil vessel at a jet skier in British waters around Gibraltar.

The UK Government’s Minister for Europe David Lidington said a Spanish officer fired a weapon during an "illegal incursion" on Sunday 23 June in British Gibraltar Territorial Waters (BGTW), and had sought assurances from Spain that there would be no repeat of the incident. “I made clear that the discharge of a weapon in or near Gibraltar is completely unacceptable. I urged Señor Mendez de Vigo to investigate urgently and to take action to ensure that this will not happen again,” he said.

However, a spokesman for Spain's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said no incident had taken place and no shot was fired dismissing it as ‘widespread rumours’.

The Daily Mail reports that the incident involved a chase by the Guardia Civil vessel which pursued a Gibraltarian jet ski into British Gibraltar territorial waters.

In an exclusive interview with the Olive Press, father-of-three Dale Villa revealed the terror of being chased by an armed police cruiser around the Bay of Gibraltar on Sunday evening at around 7pm.

In a joint statement, the three Conservative MEPs for the South West of England and Gibraltar Giles Chichester, Ashley Fox and Julie Girling said the Spanish provocation was “a form of international political posturing by a struggling government which hopes to distract attention from its domestic failures”.

For a shot to be fired will push to a new level the offence caused to the people of Gibraltar. This action is wholly illegal and as provocative as it is reckless. We wholeheartedly back the British Government's demand that Spain should explain its actions. We believe it should also apologise and offer a solemn assurance that there will be no repetition of such foolishness.

New dramatic footage emerged on Wednesday of the shooting incident at sea, was released by the Royal Gibraltar Police just hours after Spain denied the shooting. At least two gunshots can be heard on the video, below, which shows the Guardia Civil patrol boat 'Rio Cedeña' closing in on the jet ski off Western Beach.

Gibraltar’s Chief Minister Fabian Picardo welcomed Britain’s strong protest but said the incident was “so serious” that he sidestepped normal diplomatic channels and directly contacted UK Prime Minister David Cameron to tell him that diplomacy had failed to put an end to Spanish incursions into British Gibraltar territorial waters. “Diplomatic action to date appears to have had no material effect and I fear that Spain will not be deterred by yet another verbal protest no matter how robust,” he said in a lengthy letter according to the Gibraltar Chronicle.

It is understood that the UK Prime Minister "made a beeline" for Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy soon after arriving at the European Council summit this week to demand an explanation for the incident. During the press conference after the summit, Mr Cameron said he wanted to make sure a full investigation took place and it was important that countries followed international law. "I think this is a totally unacceptable episode and I made that clear,” he said. “I think it is very important that people on Gibraltar know that we support them, we support their sovereignty. We need to find out more about what happened but from what I have heard... it is not acceptable."

Gibraltar MEP raises Guardia Civil shooting incident at European Parliament (02/07)

UPDATE (03/07):
Minister for Europe David Lidington has told the House of Commons that Britain is still awaiting an explanation from Spain for the recent shooting incident in British Gibraltar territorial waters. Responding to a question from Labour MP David Crausby, he said: “We have made clear that the discharge of a weapon in Gibraltar is completely unacceptable. We are urgently seeking a full explanation from Spain.

UPDATE (30/07):
Senior Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Baroness Warsi, has described this incident as "a serious violation of British sovereignty" in a written response to a question by a fellow member of the House of Lords. "It is rare for such incursions to pose a significant risk to life [...] We have protested to the Government of Spain in the strongest terms and have made clear that such behaviour must not be repeated," she said.

UPDATE (02/08):
The UKIP MEP the Earl of Dartmouth has also issued a statement in which he says his "party deplores the puerile and politically immature recent actions of the Spanish government towards the independent and proudly British people of Gibraltar" and calls for the UK to send in the Navy. "The UK government must provide adequate Naval defences to Gibraltar to prevent further harassment until such time as Spain is mature enough to accept Gibraltars right to self determination and ends it's policy of harassment," it reads.

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