|by JOE GARCIA
As the war of words continues, the chief minister Fabian Picardo has been telling UK and Spanish media that a solution to the fishing dispute is a 'hair's breadth' away.
It is about creating a mechanism with the fishermen which, he hopes, will be agreed at Tuesday's meeting with the mayor of La Linea. He is also talking about the possibility of changing the nature protection law. He told Spanish radio that if there is a valid case to change the law, he would go to Parliament to do so.
And he told the UK press that "if we accommodate these fishermen, then we would have to change our law."
Many will tell him that he cannot be seen to be giving the impression of caving in under pressure. To negotiate under duress is never a good policy, much less when it comes to doing so with the Spanish Government who will only be encouraged to make matters worse.
Some of those who took part in the Telecinco debate on Saturday night made manifest the kind of anti-Gibraltar hate campaign that exists in some circles in Spain, which tends to be representative of those who are in power in Madrid at present.
Picardo however is intent in continuing with what the Foreign Office is urging him to do, which is "to show restraint and engage in dialogue in order to find a way forward at local level."
We asked him what action he planned following the arrival of Spanish fishing boats in our waters last week. He said that he looks forward "to continuing the process of contact and dialogue with the representatives of fishermen in question."
But it was the new PP foreign minister Margallo who lost no time in putting the Gibraltar issue at the top of his list, breaking the trilateral forum on cooperation and returning to the days when the frontier was used as a political weapon in furtherance of the Spanish claim.
And Gibraltar's new-found 'friend', the PP mayor of Algeciras Jose Ignacio Landaluce was at the weekend urging Picardo to 'bury the hatchet' and to lower the tension to allow for solutions to emerge, as if Picardo was the culprit, when in the next breath Landaluce reiterates that the waters round the Rock are Spanish, as Gibraltar has no territorial waters.
That being the Spanish contention, what they cannot do is refuse to address what is a legal question in the International Court of Justice, which is what Picardo has now rightly urged Madrid to do. That is what the UK first offered Spain during the first Gibraltar talks as long ago as 1966, an offer which Spain has always refused to take up.
In the television debate on Saturday night, Picardo asked whether this was because the Spanish Government is not sure of the legality of its position over the waters which, it must not be forgotten, are at the core of the current fishing problem - and which can surface in other issues affecting territorial waters unless Madrid were to recognise that in 1713 territorial seas were rarely mentioned in land cessions which included a sea coast, not even in the full text of the Treaty of Utrecht in respect of cessions other than Gibraltar.
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