British Foreign Secretary Dr. David Owen ended a three-day visit to Spain on Wednesday (7?
CU British Foreign Secretary Dr. David Owen speaking to interviewer
REPORTER: "When you arrived, sir, you said that Gibraltar would not dominate the talks here but nonetheless, as we all know, it is still a very live issue. Are you more hopeful now then when you arrived of a solution to the Gibraltar problem?"
OWEN: "Yes, because I think I've seen the people involved, I've spoken to the King, the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and many other ministers, and I have little doubt that they are the sort of people who are sensitive to the feelings of the people of Gibraltar. And that's the crucial thing. If Spain can improve its relationship with the people of Gibraltar then anything is possible. And I think that's the crucial area. And in a democracy you have to be sensitive to minority viewpoints. This government is already expressing sensitivity to viewpoints within its own country and the various regional problems that they face and I think that they will understand the fears and feelings of the people of Gibraltar."
REPORTER: "The Spaniards say that they want real negotiations with Britain before anything else happens. Britain says to the Spaniards 'Lift the blockade first and then we'll see.' Is there any way round this apparent deadlock?"
OWEN: "Obviously that's one of the things one wants to try and find a way round. I think one should avoid too rigid postures. My basic belief is that the people of Gibraltar must have confidence in whatever is done and that's my main objective. I've made it quite clear to the government here and to the Spanish people that Britain would like to see this problem resolved and we will use all our influence to be able to have it resolved, but that must be within the context that the people of Gibraltar are satisfied and are content and feel involved in the process of resolving the problem."
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Background: British Foreign Secretary Dr. David Owen ended a three-day visit to Spain on Wednesday (7 September) during which he promised full British support for Spain's application to join the European Economic Community. According to Reuter's new agency, he also laid the basis for a negotiated end to the long-standing dispute over Gibraltar. Spain closed its land frontier with the British colony, over which it claims sovereignty, in 1969. After a series of talks, Dr. Owen told BBC's Gordon Martin that he was now more hopeful of a solution to the Gibraltar problem.
Britain has administered the Rock of Gibraltar since 1704. It maintains it cannot transfer sovereignty to Spain against the wishes of Gibraltar's 30-thousand people who have repeatedly said they want to remain British. Dr. Owen said in Madrid at the start of his visit that is would be wrong to see the talks as being dominated by Gibraltar. The most important issues, he said, were Spain's application for entry into the EEC, and bilateral relations with Britain. Relations between Britain and Spain were severely strained in 19639 when the late General Franco imposed a blockade on Gibraltar.