Page last updated at 19:25 GMT, Tuesday, 21 July 2009 20:25 UK

Spain in rare talks on Gibraltar

Miguel Angel Moratinos and David Miliband are greeted by Gibraltar's chief minister

Spain's foreign minister has held talks in Gibraltar with his UK counterpart - the first visit by a Spanish minister for 300 years.

Miguel Angel Moratinos and David Miliband sought greater maritime, financial and judicial co-operation.

The disputed territory has been a great source of tension between the nations since Britain captured it in 1704.

The UK insists it will not hand over Gibraltar against residents' wishes despite Spanish sovereignty claims.

Border closed

Mr Moratinos crossed the border at lunchtime on Tuesday for the talks, which included Gibraltar's chief minister Peter Caruana.

This will go down as a shameful moment in Spain's history
El Mundo
Spanish newspaper

The meeting - part of the "tripartite forum" between the three countries - deliberately avoided the issue of sovereignty, focusing instead on issues of concern to the 30,000 Gibraltarians.

The talks went ahead despite a new row over Gibraltar's territorial waters.

The Gibraltarian government opposed a reported move by Spain to use a European Commission environmental directive to officially denote the surrounding seas as Spanish.

The Self-determination for Gibraltar group has called on Gibraltarians to fly union jacks during the Spanish minister's visit.

Spain ceded Gibraltar to Britain in 1713 but has long said it should return to Spanish sovereignty.

The border between Spain and Gibraltar was closed by Spanish dictator General Franco in 1969 and did not fully reopen until 1985.

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