Europe

Gibraltar row: Spain 'can't trust' UK, official says

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Media captionIgnacio Ibanez: "It's difficult to trust the UK"

A top Spanish foreign policy official has said it is difficult to trust the UK, amid a dispute between the two countries over Gibraltar.

Ignacio Ibanez, director general for foreign affairs, said the row would not end until a new artificial reef was removed from waters off Gibraltar.

Spain has tightened border controls with the British territory, prompting the UK to threaten legal action.

But Mr Ibanez denied the border controls were retaliation for the reef.

The extra border controls have caused lengthy traffic queues, and Madrid has suggested a fee of 50 euros (£43; $66) might be applied to every vehicle entering or leaving the British territory.

Image caption Long queues at the Gibraltar border could be seen this week

A British spokesman said on Tuesday that Prime Minister David Cameron was "very disappointed" by Spain's failure to remove the checks over the weekend and that "unprecedented" legal action through the EU would be launched.

The row began after Gibraltar created an artificial reef which, the Spanish say, is in a special conservation area and will disrupt fishing there.

Speaking to the BBC's Tom Burridge, Mr Ibanez said: "We are ready to discuss but to discuss we need an environment where you trust each other and, with what happened over the fisheries, it is difficult to trust the UK."

He said it was up to the British government to intervene with the Gibraltarian authorities to get the reef removed.

As for the new border controls, he accused the Gibraltarian authorities of failing to control smuggling. It was, he added, a busy time of year for cross-border traffic.

Asked by our correspondent if it was wise for Spain, a Nato ally of the UK, to seek Argentine diplomatic support, Mr Ibanez said the issue of Gibraltar had similarities to that of the Falkland islands, which he called by their Argentinian name, the Malvinas.

A Downing Street spokesman called the actions of Spain, which has been gripped by economic and political troubles this summer, "disproportionate and politically motivated".

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