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Royal Navy, Spanish vessel stand off in Gibraltar's waters

A Spanish research vessel has refused to leave Gibraltarian waters despite requests from the British Royal Navy. London says it plans to summon Spain’s ambassador after what it called a “provocative incursion.”

A Spanish oceanographic survey ship, ‘The Ramon Margalef', entered the waters off the disputed British territory on Monday, according to Britain's Foreign Office. It remained there for over 20 hours, despite radio requests from the Royal Navy to leave.

“According to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the waters around Gibraltar are indisputably British territorial waters, under United Kingdom sovereignty, in which only the United Kingdom has the right to exercise jurisdiction," Britain Foreign Officer Minister David Lidington said.

"Spain is a party to this Convention and is fully aware of the legal position, yet has, over the past two years, increased the level of unlawful incursions by Spanish state vessels into British territorial waters from around five per month to around 40 per month.

"I strongly condemn this provocative incursion and urge the Spanish government to ensure that it is not repeated," he added.

"We stand ready to do whatever is required to protect Gibraltar's sovereignty, economy and security."

Third summons since 2011

It will be the third time Britain's Foreign Office has summoned Spain's ambassador in London since Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy came to power in 2011.

Gibraltar has operated under British rule since 1713, although Spain has long desired to reclaim it.

The standoff with ‘The Ramon Margalef' underscores recent tensions between Spain and Britain.

Spain was vocal in its opposition to the extension of Gibraltar's artificial reef in July, claiming it would affect its fishing industry and responded by beefing up border security.

Britain has said it will not return Gibraltar to Spanish sovereignty against the wishes of the territory's people.

In a 2002 referendum, Gibraltarians voted overwhelmingly against a proposal of shared sovereignty between Britain and Spain.

ph/ipj (AP, Reuters, AFP)