Spain refuels Russian ships despite NATO pressure, says UK has to leave Gibraltar

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Madrid has raised fresh complaints about British military presence in Gibraltar while continuing to resist NATO pressure to bar the Russian navy from refueling at the nearby port of Ceuta.

The Spanish ambassador to the United Nations, Agustín Santos Maraver, called out the UK for their military installations in Gibraltar during a scathing speech to the UN Committee on Decolonization on Monday.

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Santos reiterated that Spain sought the return of Gibraltar and the “illegally occupied” cape, adding that the British military presence remained “at the heart” of the decolonization debate.

Meanwhile, patrol ship Vasily Bykov of the Russian Navy has docked at the port of Ceuta, a Spanish enclave in North Africa. The refueling visit suggests that the Spanish authorities are more comfortable with the Russian military than with the presence of its former colonial foe, Britain.

Spain has repeatedly come under pressure from its NATO allies to stop allowing Russian warships to refuel in Ceuta. The government of conservative PM Mariano Rajoy caved in and halted the practice in 2016, but it was resumed after the 2018 election victory of socialist PM Pedro Sanchez.

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Britain has controlled Gibraltar since 1704, after capturing the territory in the War of Spanish Succession. Spain has repeatedly tried to reclaim the peninsula. While the issue has been somewhat dormant since 1982, when the membership of both the UK and Spain in the European Union made the border symbolic, it has resurfaced following the “Brexit” referendum.

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