Britain is sending navy warships to Gibraltar amid growing tension between London and Madrid over the territory’s sovereignty.
According to reports, Royal Navy rapid-reaction force including aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious and two frigates will sail for the Mediterranean on Monday, August 12 for a four-month deployment after a diplomatic row with neighboring Spain over the territory heated up.
British Ministry of Defence (MoD), however, claimed the deployment was long-planned and not connected to recent tensions between the two countries.
“Gibraltar is a strategic base for UK Defence and as such Royal Navy ships visit its waters throughout the year as part of a range of regular and routine deployments,” an MoD spokesperson said.
The deployment of warships in Gibraltar follows weeks of rising tension after Spanish border officers caused delays of up to six hours for cars trying to enter Spain, carrying out searches on vehicles.
The move drew an angry reaction from London and British Foreign Office formally protested to Spain’s ambassador to London over the matter.
Tensions between Spain and Gibraltar flared up last month when the Rock’s authorities announced plan for creating an artificial reef for fish and boats began dumping concrete blocks into the sea. On other side of the border, Spanish authorities said the reef would block its fishing boats.
Gibraltar was occupied by Britain in 1713 and has been since a bone of contention between Madrid and London.
The United Nations (UN) lists the strategic 6.8-kilometer area that overlooks the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea from the Atlantic Ocean as a territory waiting to be decolonized.
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