On May 3, the Spanish naval vessel Atalaya traversed British territorial waters near Gibraltar, calling on commercial ships anchoring at port to immediately leave the area. The Royal Navy responded by dispatching the armed patrol boat hms Scimitar.
According to the government in Gibraltar, the Spanish boat crossed into the British territorial zone and “contacted all merchant shipping on the eastside of the Rock within British Gibraltar Territorial Waters and ordered them to raise anchors and to leave since they did not have permission to be in Spanish waters.”
This was the second such violation of the British zone by the Spanish in less than two weeks. On April 23, a Spanish police vessel was reportedly damaged in a confrontation with the Royal Gibraltar Police after entering territorial waters ostensibly to pursue drug traffickers. These are just the most recent of a string of territorial incursions by Spain in recent years as Spanish authorities seek to mount pressure on the British government for the return of Gibraltar.
The matter of territorial waters claimed by the Gibraltar government has long been a disputed and sensitive subject between the Spanish and British governments. A British territory since 1713, Gibraltar has been one of Great Britain’s most powerful, established and important sea gates—essential to maintaining its Middle Eastern and African interests.
Spain has long been jealous of this crown of the Mediterranean which Britain has retained through centuries of struggle. It was ceded to Britain via the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, which was renewed in 1763 by the Treaty of Paris and again by the Treaty of Versailles in 1783. The text of the treaty gives Britain sovereign control of this unmatched Mediterranean gateway, stating “the town and castle of Gibraltar, together with the port, fortifications and forts thereunto belonging; and he gives up said propriety to be held and enjoyed absolutely with all manner of right forever, without any exception or impediment whatsoever.”
It is prophesied, however, that the once mighty Great Britain will not forever hold its claim on this strategic blessing. The Trumpet has been warning of this outcome for the past two decades, as did our mentor, Herbert Armstrong, for almost 60 years before that.
With each annoying and antagonistic drive into British waters, Spain continues, little by little, to taunt Britain in an effort to weaken that country’s will to hold on to Gibraltar. In our December 1997 edition, the Trumpet reported on the weakening of British will to hold Gibraltar: “The fact is that Britain has no objection in principle to handing Gibraltar over to Spain, providing this is acceptable to the majority of the Rock’s inhabitants. In other words—it is just a matter of time.” Each Spanish challenge to Britain’s much-weakened navy brings Spain a step closer to stealing back this Mediterranean crown, one of the last of the great global sea gates that Britain once dominated. ▪