Thursday, March 03, 2005

Hoon and Bono meet today

Britain’s Secretary of State for Defence Geoff Hoon is due to meet with his Spanish counterpart José Bono Martínez in Madrid today.

Although they are expected to discuss broad issues relating to European Union defence and the Iraq situation the meeting between the two ministers comes in the wake of exchanges on nuclear submarine visits to Gibraltar.

MoD officials yesterday confirmed the meeting but said it was private. They also said that there is no formal agenda and that Sr Bono was reciprocating a similar visit he made to Britain last year as Mr Hoon’s guest. The MoD said that Sr Bono has made clear that this is not an encounter in which issues of substance are to be tackled and they did not expect Gibraltar related issues to be discussed. It will include Mr Hoon staying at Sr Bono’s private residence in Toledo and a walk about the city.

It comes in the wake of Britain including Spanish companies as part of a consortium in a major defence project award on modern refuelling aircraft. Britain is unhappy at Spain’s continued complaints whilst Spain in turn seeks a closer consultation and a written undertaking that no more repairs will take place to nuclear related parts of vessels.

Meanwhile, Manuel Chaves, the Junta de Andalucia president, has said that the new tripartite dialogue process on Gibraltar is a step forward in creating a constructive atmosphere of mutual confidence. He said that the Junta has offered to support the process and contribute to any network of human relations as well as educational, health, social and cultural matters.

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