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Disputed status of the isthmus between Gibraltar and Spain: Wikis


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Coordinates: 36°09′08″N 5°20′43″W / 36.152336°N 5.345199°W / 36.152336; -5.345199 (Isthmus between Gibraltar and Spain)

Map of Gibraltar. The airport is located on the isthmus that connects the territory to Spain.

The Gibraltar territory nowadays contains an 800 metres (2,625 ft) long section of the isthmus that links the Rock with mainland Spain. Spain does not acknowledge British sovereignty over Gibraltar beyond the fortified perimeter of the town as at 1704. The United Kingdom claims the southern part of the isthmus on the basis of continuous possession over a long period.

Today the Gibraltar part of the isthmus contains two housing estates, a marina, sporting facilities, the cemetery and the Gibraltar airport.


Positions of each side

One of the sources of the dispute is surely the lack of appropriate definitions of what had been actually ceded to Great Britain. The Treaty of Utrecht did not include any map or specific description of the ceded elements, so that the Article X is subject to different interpretations from each side. According to the Article X of the Treaty of Utrecht, dominion is ceded over the town and castle of Gibraltar, together with the port, fortifications, and forts thereunto belonging.

When peace prevailed, the Spanish occupied half of the 'neutral territory' and the British a corresponding half, with a fence demarcating the frontier.


Spanish position

Spain does not acknowledge British sovereignty over Gibraltar beyond a literal interpretation that considers that forts refer to the fortified perimeter of the town. Therefore, the Treaty would not have ceded any part of the isthmus. Spain considers that such an area was occupied by the UK since the 19th century (1815), and such occupation did not grant UK sovereignty over it, according to International Law. For the same reason, British sovereignty is not acknowledged by Spain, considering itself instead to be owner of the territory (see map). In December 2, 1987, in a joint British-Spanish declaration about the use of the airport, as well as in several EU acts, the UK has acknowledged that Spain disputes the sovereignty of the isthmus (The ... arrangements ... are understood to be without prejudice to the respective legal positions of Spain and the United Kingdom with regard to the dispute over sovereignty over the territory in which the airport is situated. [1]), although they reject the basis for that dispute.

Referring to the current demarcation, Spanish official terminology always uses the word "fence" instead of "frontier" or "border", since it does not acknowledge the possibility of having a frontier with what Spain considers to be its own territory.

British position

The United Kingdom claims that their title to the southern part of the isthmus is based on continuous possession over a long period[1]

Gibraltar position

The Gibraltar government rejects Spain's argument in its entirety. They point out that as "Utrecht" ceded the town and castle of Gibraltar, together with the port, fortifications, and forts thereunto belonging and there were such "fortifications and forts" along the line of the current frontier (Devil's Tower, El Molino) such that this area was included in the cession. Furthermore, they argue, international practice at the time was that all territorial cessions carried an extended area equivalent to the length of two cannon shots. In any case, the UK further bases its claim upon what they consider to be established legal precedents which grant property rights over an area which is continually occupied and made sole use of, for an extended period. In practice the land is now an integral part of the territory of Gibraltar on one side, and similarly on the Spanish side, and although there may be a line on the map, there is no longer any indication of the boundary of the 'neutral ground'.

Maps [2], [3] and [4] from Global Geografia (in Italian) show the evolution of the British occupation of the isthmus as well as the location of the two items that, according to the Gibraltarian government, were part of the forts ceded in the Treaty of Utrecht (Torre del Diablo, Devil's Tower, and Molino). The Torre del Molino is marked with an "F"

In practice Gibraltar begins at the frontier/fence and the 'neutral land' to the north has been adsorbed into the town of La Linea, and to the South is an integral part of Gibraltar.


British sources

  • ^ George Hills (1974). Rock of Contention. A History of Gibraltar. London: Robert Hale. ISBN 0-7091-4352-4.   George Hills was a BBC World Service broadcaster, Spanish Historian and Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.
  • ^ Jackson, William (1990). The Rock of the Gibraltarians. A History of Gibraltar (2nd ed.). Grendon, Northamptonshire, UK: Gibraltar Books. ISBN 0-948466-14-6.   General Sir William Jackson was Governor of Gibraltar between 1978 and 1982, a military Historian and former Chairman of the Friends of Gibraltar Heritage Society.

Gibraltarian sources

Spanish sources

  • ^ Sepúlveda, Isidro (2004). Gibraltar. La razón y la fuerza (Gibraltar. The reason and the force). in Spanish. Madrid: Alianza Editorial. ISBN 84-206-4184-7.   Chapter 2, "La lucha por Gibraltar" (The Struggle for Gibraltar) is available online (PDF). Isidro Sepúlveda Muñoz is a Contemporary History Professor in the UNED ("Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia"), the biggest Spanish university.
  • ^ Cajal, Máximo (2003). Siglo XXI Editores. ed. Ceuta, Melilla, Olivenza y Gibraltar. Donde termina España (Ceuta, Melilla, Olivenza y Gibraltar. Where Spain ends). In Spanish. Madrid. ISBN 84-323-1138-3.   Máximo Cajal is a Spanish diplomatist, ambassador in different countries and currently the special representant of the Spanish Prime Minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, in the Alliance of Civilizations. He was the only survivor of the assault of the Embassy of Spain in Guatemala by the forces of the Guatemalan dictatorship in 1980.
  • ^ Ministerio de Asuntos Exteriores de España (Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs). New Spanish Red Book.  


  1. ^ UK Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1999). "Partnership for Progress and Prosperity: Britain and the Overseas Territories. Appendix 1: Profiles for Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands & Gibraltar" (PDF). Partnership for Progress and Prosperity: Britain and the Overseas Territories. Retrieved 2005-12-19.  
  2. ^ 


See also


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