Gibraltar leader urges joint rule with Spain

The chief minister of Gibraltar has suggested that Britain and Spain should share sovereignty of the Rock and said the idea should be put to the people of the colony in a referendum.

Peter Caruana, who has been in power for 14 years, made the call for the Rock to be given a similar status to that which the tiny mountain principality of Andorra had when it was jointly ruled by Spain and France, during a speech to local Spanish politicians and businessmen in Seville.

The idea of joint sovereignty to end the situation which has been a thorn in the side of British-Spanish relations for generations is not new. However, public support for such a solution from a leader of Gibraltar's own government is unprecedented.

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Mr Caruana's comments follow remarks by Spain's newly appointed foreign minister, Trini Jimnez, earlier this week, in which she reiterated the Spanish government's long-held insistance that any negotiations on Gibraltar's sovereignty must be between the British and Spanish governments and not with the local administration on the Rock.

Pointing out that Gibraltar has been British for longer than the United States has existed, since it was ceded to Britain by Spain under the Treaty of Utrecht, the chief minister said that treaty should not be applied in reaching an agreement.

"In the 21st century, we cannot have a solution from the 18th century," Mr Caruana told his audience.

He added that he, personally, favoured a status similar to that which Andorra had when it was jointly ruled by Spain and France, supported by the approval of a majority of the 30,000 population of Gibraltar in a referendum.