Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Pique said yesterday he expected to hold the next round of talks on the future of Gibraltar with his British counterpart Jack Straw in May. Pique said the ongoing talks to resolve a 300-year-old dispute over the British colony were going “reasonably well” and he hoped Spain and Britain could fulfil their goal of reaching an agreement by the summer. He said junior ministers from Britain and Spain would meet to discuss Gibraltar in the middle of April and he hoped to meet Straw again some time in May. He did not say where. Straw and Pique last met in London in February when they reaffirmed their goal of reaching a comprehensive agreement before the summer “covering all outstanding issues including cooperation and sovereignty.” The two countries “cannot maintain an anachronism such as the existence of a colony in European territory, in the territory of a country which is a partner, ally and friend of the colonising country,” Pique said on Tuesday, speaking at a seminar on EU issues. Relations between Spain and Britain were excellent at a political level but the relationship had further potential that was sometimes hindered by the Gibraltar dispute, he said. “The two governments have an historical responsibility ... to resolve this dispute as soon as possible,” he said. Madrid claims sovereignty over the British peninsula, which sits on Spain's southern coast. But Gibraltarians overwhelmingly reject any Spanish role in their affairs and oppose London's talks with Madrid. They fear Britain will agree to a power-sharing agreement with Spain, even if Gibraltar later rejects the deal in a referendum. Spain ceded Gibraltar to Britain in the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht.

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