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Monday, 29 October, 2001, 14:03 GMT
'Deadline set' for Gibraltar deal
Gibraltar
Gibraltar has been in British hands since 1704
A deadline to resolve the centuries-old dispute over Gibraltar has been agreed by the British and Spanish governments, according to the Foreign Office.

Diplomats have been told to find a solution by December 2002, to give "momentum" to the talks, a spokeswoman said.

She said no concrete proposals have been put forward and joint sovereignty for Gibraltar, which has been in British hands since 1704, is considered an "extreme" option.

Low-profile talks began in July and will resume with a meeting between Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and his Spanish counterpart Josep Pique in Barcelona on November 20.

Improved relations

A spokesman for the Spanish Embassy in London told BBC News Online the details of the talks were confidential.

He said: "The negotiations are underway and we can't discuss what they're talking about."


The deadline is to give momentum to the talks

British Government official
Speaking in Luxembourg Mr Pique said: "The government is convinced that we cannot maintain the status quo and we have the political will to make serious progress. Any advance will be positive."

The talks will involve representatives of the territory's 30,000 inhabitants, many of whom are opposed to Spanish sovereignty.

But others work in Spain and are in favour of improved relations and relaxed border controls.

It is thought any proposals would be the subject of a referendum before they are adopted.

Proposals

In September the British minister responsible for Europe, Peter Hain, told the Gibraltar Chronicle newspaper that Britain wanted to normalise relations with Spain within two years.

In 1997 Spain submitted proposals which would see Gibraltar governed as a joint sovereignty for the next 50 years at least.

See also:

14 Sep 00 | Europe
Gibraltar allows sub repairs
18 Aug 00 | Europe
Gibraltar: A rocky road
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