The Convent

9th October 1998

I know that many of you are worried and confused by the events over the last few days and weeks on the fishing problem. In particular in the last few days you have heard many different, sometimes conflicting, versions of events and a great deal of speculation about what is happening.

I am deeply sorry that you, the people of Gibraltar, are being continually subjected to this and that it is causing unnecessary anxiety and confusion. I do not want to try to comment on each and every one of these reports because in the main they detract from the central issue. This is the matter I want to address today. When I last made a statement on this issue on 15 September I made it clear that the Chief Minister and I were in agreement that fishing in moderation had occurred, without any serious incidents, since the 1991 laws were passed and that the Spanish fishermen generally returned home when asked to do so by the police. This practice was and remains acceptable provided the authority of our law enforcement agencies is respected and obeyed.

What we are now trying to achieve is to return to the situation which existed between 1991 and 1997. The discussions between the two Foreign Ministers were designed to help achieve this. I believe that HMG and the Government of Spain have been working with good intent to try to defuse tensions and rebuild confidence.

It is quite clear that, in order to get over teething problems and to reduce tensions, it is necessary for our enforcement agencies, led by the RGP, to show maximum restraint during these early few days to see if things can settle down. This they have been doing and I am very grateful to them for their support in this difficult task.

There is plenty of goodwill on the Gibraltar side. We now look to all on the Spanish side, especially the fishermen, to respond to this approach and to the publicly stated desire of the Spanish Government to see a peaceful return to the situation that existed before.

There have been, and will no doubt continue to be, difficulties, which I hope will be handled sensibly by both sides. It is time now to get back to normal. Let us keep our sights on that objective. Let us give this approach a chance to succeed.

In the meantime, let me make it plain that HMG has clear responsibilities towards Gibraltar, one of which is to safeguard the sovereignty, control and jurisdiction of all British territorial waters. This is something on which we cannot compromise. As Governor and Commander-in-Chief, I will continue to do everything within my power to ensure that this happens.

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