MADRID (AP) — Gibraltar's top leadership accused Spanish customs agents Friday of “a grave breach of sovereignty and jurisdiction,” alleging they landed on a beach of the British territory while chasing smugglers.
The Spanish foreign ministry rejected Gibraltar’s description of events, “as well as the claims of alleged British sovereignty over the territory and waters of Gibraltar contained therein.”
It also said the agents were injured while pursuing the smugglers.
Madrid and London have been engaged for years in diplomatic negotiations over the post-Brexit future of Gibraltar, on Spain's southern tip. Its British sovereignty since the 18th century has been disputed by Spain.
Gibraltar’s chief minister, Fabian Picardo, said agents from Spain’s Customs Surveillance Service landed on the territory’s Eastern Beach on Thursday. In an emailed statement, he called that “a gross violation of British sovereignty and, potentially, the most serious and dangerous incident for many years."
Spain’s foreign ministry called his comments “incomprehensible” in light of recent talks about a deal with Britain on Gibraltar’s future.
Picardo said the Gibraltar government was talking with British officials about a possible diplomatic response.