Friday, July 12, 2002
'Gibraltar - Negotiations saved' or 'Gibraltar - Negotiations shelved'

These may be the headlines that Jack Straw, Foreign Secretary, is hoping to view in the media tomorrow with his restatement that Britain is willing to share sovereignty on Gibraltar.

This announcement could be viewed as a last-ditch move to breathe some life into negotiations that had stalled due to the British unwillingness to accept Spain's claims to full sovereignty with no say for the inhabitants of the Rock. Spain's government had moved the Foreign Minister, Josep Pique, in a ministerial reshuffle, and this appears to have been interpreted by the FCO as Spanish disinterest in further talks.

The FCO could have let the talks wither away but appear to wish for a permanent settlement. However, the wish to obtain a "strategic alliance" with Spain in Europe will founder as Straw did restate the non-negotiable conditions (at this point in time):

1. that any settlement is approved by the Gibraltarians in a referendum;
2. that Britain retains full control of the military facilities; and
3. that there is no move to full sovereignty.

Is this Straw telling Spain this far and no further and beginning to fill in the grave on the Gibraltar talks or is it a further invitation to coax the Spaniards back to the table? We shall see.


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