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Tuesday, 20 November, 2001, 15:45 GMT
Summer date set for Gibraltar deal
Gibraltar's Independent Liberal Forum party leader Felix Alvarez tries to unfurl a flag at the Spanish parliament
Gibraltar's government is boycotting the talks
The UK and Spain have agreed to reach a full deal on the future of Gibraltar by next summer, in the face of furious protests by residents who claim they are being sold out by Britain.

About 30 Gibraltarians travelled to Barcelona to picket talks between UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and his Spanish opposite number Josep Pique.

Gibraltar's Chief Minister, Peter Caruana, boycotted the meeting.

This overall agreement will cover all outstanding issues, including those on co-operation and sovereignty

UK-Spanish statement
In a joint statement, the UK and Spanish ministers said they would work towards a comprehensive agreement by summer 2002.

"This overall agreement will cover all outstanding issues, including those on co-operation and sovereignty," the statement said.

As part of the process, Spain has agreed to boost the number of telephone lines to the Rock, and to improve health services.

Mr Straw insists that no change to the status of the Rock - currently a British dependent territory - will take place without the agreement of its people in a referendum.

Sovereignty claim

But Mr Pique has reiterated that his country will never renounce its claim of sovereignty - whatever the referendum results.

There has been much speculation that a deal on joint sovereignty could be in the pipeline.

BBC Europe correspondent Justin Webb says the Gibraltarians are likely to vote against any change to the Rock's current status, and that this would cause huge disappointment in Spain.

Mr Straw, who met some of the Gibraltarians protesting in Barcelona, said after the talks that he was acting in their best interests.

We reckon it is a sell-out - Blair is too friendly with the Spanish prime minister, and he is trying to get rid of this Gibraltar problem

Gibraltar resident
"My over-riding interest is the interests of the people of Gibraltar - for a secure future where Gibraltar enjoys greater self-government and a stable and prosperous future," Mr Straw told a news conference.

Both ministers urged Mr Caruana to join the talks process.

Gibraltar has been in British hands since it was seized from Spain in 1704.

Its 30,000 residents are overwhelmingly in favour of maintaining the status quo on sovereignty.

The BBC's Stephen Webb
"The people of Gibraltar are being asked to rethink"
Chief Minister for Gibraltar Peter Caruana
"What is on offer is the UK and Spain coming to an agreement without consulting the Gibraltar government"
UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw
"Any decision will be put to the people of Gibraltar"
See also:

20 Nov 01 | Europe
Q&A: Where now for Gibraltar?
20 Nov 01 | Europe
Head to Head: Gibraltar's future
05 Jun 99 | Europe
Gibraltar: Rock of ages
20 Nov 01 | UK Politics
Gibraltar 'will have referendum'
17 Nov 01 | From Our Own Correspondent
Gibraltar eyes uncertain future
08 Nov 01 | Europe
Clouds gather over Gibraltar
29 Oct 01 | Europe
'Deadline set' for Gibraltar deal
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