The Spanish Navy has come under fire after a Twitter user, reported to be a Gibraltar local by several outlets, posted a clip of a warship sailing through the British territorial waters accompanied by the sounds of the Spanish anthem. The Infanta Elena, a 40-year-old Descubierta class corvette, was claimed to be manoeuvering off the Gibraltar coast on the afternoon of 4 December.
@foreignoffice @HMGoG_MIP enough is enough it may not undermine sovereignty for the UK,but for as Gibralterians it's an invasion of BGTW.The UK Government must take action in defence of it's people. pic.twitter.com/QNGKpCjXKw— Nicholas Karnani🎗🎗🎗🇬🇧🇬🇮🇬🇧🇬🇮🇬🇧🇬🇮🇬🇧 (@Atajate71) 4 декабря 2018 г.
The report triggered a firestorm on Twitter as many shared the video and accused Spain of “non-innocent passage”.
The Spanish warship that entered British #Gibraltar Territorial Waters today while blasting the Spanish National Anthem was not conducting “innocent passage” as defined by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. In violation of Art 19, paragraph 2(l) & probably 2(b) pic.twitter.com/TqUcB8d530— Luke Coffey (@LukeDCoffey) 4 декабря 2018 г.
Spanish ship, Spanish anthem, Spanish flag, Spanish waters.— Augusto Prego (@augustoprego) 4 декабря 2018 г.
UN convention not applicable.
Other users drew parallels to Russia.
Should probably return Gibraltar to Spain before criticizing Russia.— Jeff Vader (@zezezebe) 4 декабря 2018 г.
The UK Foreign Office has confirmed there has been an intrusion.
“As with all incursions, the Royal Navy challenged the vessel. When challenged, the Spanish Navy vessel left British Gibraltar Territorial Waters. Incursions are a violation of sovereignty, not a threat to it. We have no doubt about our sovereignty over Gibraltar”, said a Foreign Office spokesman, as cited by the Daily Mail.
However, the Foreign Office refuted reports of the ship playing the Spanish national anthem stating the Royal Navy vessel that was on site did not hear it. The Telegraph also suggested that the video was doctored.
The Gibraltar government’s spokesman still slammed the incursion for it “represents an unprofessional provocation which is as childish as it is meaningless”.
Madrid has staked a claim to the British overseas UK territory for 300 years. Gibraltar, located on the southern coast of Spain, has been a British Overseas Territory since 1713, when Spain ceded it to the United Kingdom under the Treaty of Utrecht. The region’s residents rejected the idea of Spanish sovereignty in 1967 and joint UK-Spanish authority in 2002. Amid the Brexit talks, the Spanish government has signaled it’s ready to renew its calls for Gibraltar’s sovereignty.
However, the Foreign Office has vigorously rejected any attempts in this direction.
“The UK will never enter into arrangements under which the people of Gibraltar would pass under the sovereignty of another state against their wishes, nor enter into a process of sovereignty negotiations with which Gibraltar is not content”, its spokesperson said.