Silver Lining

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British warships’ arrival at Gibraltar adds to already heated tensions

Press TV

Amid an escalation of diplomatic tensions between the UK and Spain over the disputed territory of Gibraltar, British warship HMS Westminster, accompanied by two smaller support vessels, have docked at a naval base in Gibraltar for what Britain claims as ‘navy drills’.

HMS Westminster, a Type 23 frigate fitted out with torpedoes, anti-ship and surface to air missiles as well as an anti-submarine helicopter arrived on Monday after a six-day-long sail from the UK’s southern naval port in Portsmouth.

London claims the “long-planned annual deployment” of the nine-vessel group is to take part in naval war-games, but the Spanish consider the deployment as a provocative move.

The war-game entitled Cougar ’13 officially starts later this week and involves thousands of Royal Navy, Marines and Fleet Auxiliary personnel as well as aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious, which arrived on Sunday, according to British media reports.

The row between Spain and Britain erupted last month after Gibraltar authorities began building an artificial reef in the sea which Madrid says is harming Spanish fishermen. In response, Spain imposed strict border controls on vehicles coming to or leaving the so-called Rock, creating long queues for workers and tourists entering Gibraltar.

Spanish fishermen have complained that since the artificial reef was constructed they have lost a large proportion of their annual revenue as they no longer have access to rich fishing grounds.

Gibraltar was occupied by Britain in 1713 and has been since a bone of contention between Madrid and London.

Spain claims ownership over the territory with a population of about thirty thousand. Spain ceded Gibraltar to Britain in a treaty three-hundred years ago.

The United Nations (UN) lists the strategic 6.8-kilometer area that overlooks the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea from the Atlantic Ocean as a territory waiting to be decolonized.

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