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Monday, 4 February, 2002, 18:43 GMT
Gibraltar talks 'still on course'
Demonstration outside the Foreign Office
Gibraltarians protest against shared sovereignty
The latest round of talks between the UK and Spain over the control of Gibraltar has ended without agreement.

But both sides are insisting that "good progress" has been made in resolving the centuries-old dispute.


We cannot understand why Britain and Spain are doing deals behind our backs

Manuel Capurro, The London Gibraltarian Society
Spanish foreign minister Josep Pique said the two countries were still on course to announce concrete proposals in August.

"Our common aim remains to conclude a comprehensive agreement before the summer covering all outstanding issues including cooperation and sovereignty," Mr Pique said in a joint statement with his British counterpart, Jack Straw.

The declaration came as members of The London Gibraltarian Society gathered to protest about the talks outside the Foreign Office in London.

'Self-determination'

One society member, Manuel Capurro, said: "You can have as much dialogue as you like but you cannot do anything without the consent of the people."

He added: "We want self-determination and we cannot understand why Britain and Spain are doing deals behind our backs.

"We want to remain British. We don't want to have joint sovereignty with Spain."

'Discussions of sovereignty'

Mr Straw, who was meeting Mr Pique for the third time in recent months, repeated assurances that the UK had not already reached an agreement on joint sovereignty behind closed doors.


What we are seeking, among other things, is a higher degree of daily self-government within Gibraltar itself

Jack Straw, Home Secretary
He would not be drawn on the precise form the talks were taking.

But he said retaining the status quo of British rule - or giving Gibraltar full self-determination - were not options.

He told reporters the "process in which we are engaged includes discussions of sovereignty.

"We are discussing a range of options in relation to that - but we haven't reached an agreement."

He said Gibraltar would be consulted on the final proposals in a referendum.

Both Mr Pique and Mr Straw repeated calls for the Gibraltarian authorities - who have so far boycotted talks - to join the final stages of discussions.

'Very different'

Mr Straw said Gibraltar was "very different" from other post-colonial situations such as Hong Kong.

Under the treaty of Utrecht - through which Britain acquired Gibraltar - Spain had "first refusal" on sovereignty if Britain decided to give it up, Mr Straw said.

"What we are seeking, among other things, is a higher degree of daily self-government within Gibraltar itself," Mr Straw told a press conference.

No compromise

Speaking earlier, Gibraltar's chief minister Peter Caruana said he was not prepared to participate in talks where the outcome was predetermined.

"I am being invited to take part in dialogue after the British and Spanish governments have already agreed between themselves an outline of principle which includes giving away half of the sovereignty of Gibraltar," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

If an agreement was reached on shared sovereignty, the idea is that Spain would normalise relations with Gibraltar.

Independence

The Tories have accused Labour of preparing to betray the people of Gibraltar in order to improve Britain's standing in Europe.

Shadow foreign secretary Michael Ancram repeated that accusation on Monday, saying the government was guilty of a "sell-out".

Spain sees diplomatic benefits in getting a joint declaration with Britain, even if the proposals are rejected in a referendum.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Bridget Kendall
"Officials admit a deal might include joint sovereignty"
Anthony Gooch, London School of Economics
"Almost certainly they will vote against it"
Shadow Foreign Secretary Michael Ancram
"Joint sovereignty...is unworkable and wrong"
See also:

04 Feb 02 | UK Politics
Divided by the Rock
15 Jan 02 | UK Politics
Dispute continues on Gibraltar talks
14 Jan 02 | UK Politics
'No deal on Gibraltar'
12 Jan 02 | UK Politics
Officials dismiss Gibraltar 'deal'
28 Nov 01 | UK Politics
'No boycott' on Gibraltar
20 Nov 01 | Europe
Head to Head: Gibraltar's future
20 Nov 01 | Europe
Q&A: Where now for Gibraltar?
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