MADRID, July 31 (Xinhuanet) -- The Spanish government
has decided to recall its ambassador to Britain to protest against a planned
visit to Gibraltar by British Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon, Spanish Foreign
Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said on Friday.
The Spanish government and people were very
disappointed at the"unfriendly gesture" of the British government, Moratinos
told reporters in the southern city of Cordoba.
The decision was announced hours after the Council of Ministers
held a meeting earlier on Friday, during which Spanish Principal Deputy
Prime Minister Maria Fernandez de la Vega described Hoon's visit as "untimely"
and said the Foreign Ministry would take diplomatic steps soon.
Spanish media reported that Hoon plans to visit
Gibraltar on Wednesday to participate in the ceremony of the 300th anniversary
of the British occupation of the enclave, located at Spain's southern tip.
Hoon's visit comes after the British nuclear
submarine Tireless' visit to Gibraltar on July 9 and British Princess Anne's
visit on June 28. Both visits triggered strong protests from the Spanish
government and revived tensions between the two countries.
Gibraltar has been a contentious issue between Britain
and Spain for decades. It was occupied by Britain in 1704 and ceded to
Britain under the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht. Madrid has been demanding that the
territory be returned.
Relations between Britain and Spain's new Socialist government, in
power for just three months, have been repeatedly strained over the
In May, London protested against Madrid's decision to
deny the entry of British cruise ships docking at Gibraltar into Spanish ports.
Spain later agreed to put a three-month moratorium on the ban, which expires in
Spain's new government hopes to boost talks over the
Gibraltar with Britain, as the former Conservative government did, through the
so-called Brussels process.
In 2002, the British government said it was in principle
in favor of sharing sovereignty with Spain over Gibraltar. Talks stalled
when Gibraltarians voted overwhelmingly to stay British in a 2002
referendum, which Spain called illegal. Enditem