Spain signals solidarity with Argentina on Falklands claim

Spanish foreign ministry statement cites claim for Gibraltar while backing Argentina’s claim for Falklands as row with UK over disputed territory heats up

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Argentine Falklands War veterans Hugo Romero (R) and Walter Sarverry walk next to a ''Welcome to the Falkland Islands'' sign in Port Stanley, in this picture taken March 14, 2012.

The Spanish Foreign Ministry has expressed its support for Argentina’s claim of sovereignty over the Falkland Islands in its dispute with the UK, citing Spain’s own claims over the British territory of Gibraltar.

The statement came after Argentina’s new conservative government reiterated its claims over the Falklands, which it calls the Malvinas, indicating that the new Buenos Aires administration is not planning to change the country’s narrative on the islands.

Argentina lost 649 soldiers in a 74-day war with the UK over the Falklands in 1982, which started when Argentine forces landed on the islands in 1982. The UK, meanwhile, lost 255 soldiers in the war.

Despite being located just 500 kilometres from Argentina, the islands have since 1833 officially been a part of Britain, which lies around 14,000 kilometres away. Argentina, however, claims the islands were included within its territories when it gained its independence from Spain in the early 19th century.

In Wednesday’s statement, Spain said that like Argentina, it too was seeking "bilateral dialogues with the United Kingdom to find a definitive solution” over Gibraltar, a territory located on the southwestern tip of the Iberian peninsula with a population of about 30,000 people, which was ceded to Britain in the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713.

Responding to the Spanish authorities, the UK dismissed the proposal to hold talks over the disputed territory, saying their position on Gibraltar’s sovereignty remains “unchanged.”

"We will protect the right of the people of Gibraltar to determine their political future. The UK will never enter into arrangements under which the people of Gibraltar would pass under the sovereignty of another State against their wishes," the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office said.

"Furthermore, the UK will not enter into any process of sovereignty negotiations with which Gibraltar is not content. We believe that dialogue involving the UK, Spain and Gibraltar, remains the best means to make progress towards a better relationship with Spain over Gibraltar in the long term."

A Union flag flies at Europa Point in front of the Rock (rear), a monolithic limestone promontory, and the Ibrahim-al-Ibrahim mosque in Gibraltar, south of Spain on August 12, 2013

Meanwhile, the local government in Gibraltar urged Spain to “abandon its medieval claim to Gibraltar and the unacceptable way in which it has recently aggressively pursued it.”

"Her Majesty’s Government of Gibraltar will never consent to the United Kingdom entering into any process of talks, discussions or negotiations with Spain in respect of the Sovereignty of Gibraltar," it said.

Tensions over the territory have been high since 2013, when the Spanish government abandoned tripartite talks amid a row regarding fishing rights around Gibraltar. In retaliation, Spain enforced border controls which led to a slowdown of traffic for people travelling between to and from the territory.

In August 2015, Spanish police vessels and a customs helicopter illegally entered and violated Gibraltar’s territorial waters and airspace without properly notifying Gibraltarian authorities.

Although it was believed that the repeated incursions were part of the pursuit of a suspected drug-smuggling speedboat, British Foreign Office Minister Hugo Swire said the actions were "completely unacceptable and unlawful."

However, Spain denied the incursion, with an official from Spain's Foreign Ministry, who declined to be named, telling Reuters, "The waters are Spanish."

"It was Spanish boats patrolling in Spanish waters to control illegal activities such as tobacco smuggling or illegal fishing," the official said.

TRTWorld and agencies