Spain's main police union SUP (Sindicato Unificado de Policia) stage a demonstration outside border with Gibraltar. Photo: Getty
London: A British navy warship will sail to Britain's overseas territory of Gibraltar in the coming weeks, coinciding with a diplomatic row with neighbouring Spain, although officials said on Thursday the trip was a routine and long-planned visit.
A centuries-old conflict over the British outpost boiled over in late July when boats from Gibraltar dumped concrete blocks into the sea to make a reef, and Spain created long delays at the border days later, with lengthy car checks.
Three British navy vessels, including the frigate HMS Westminster, will visit the outpost as part of an annual deployment known as "Cougar", Britain's Ministry of Defence (MOD) said.
"The forthcoming visit by ships making up Cougar 13, including HMS Westminster and the Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships Lyme Bay and Mounts Bay, are business as usual," an MOD statement said.
An MOD spokesman stressed the visit was not related to the border issues and said he was unable to confirm exactly when the ships would arrive at Gibraltar.
British Prime Minister David Cameron and his Spanish counterpart Mariano Rajoy spoke on Wednesday and agreed to try and calm tempers. Mr Cameron's office said he had made Mr Rajoy aware of the impending navy visit during their call.
"This is a routine visit that takes place every year and was scheduled well in advance," Gibraltar's defence spokeswoman Julia Wilde said.
A "Cougar" military manoeuvre also took place in 2012 and involved the same number of vessels visiting Gibraltar. British navy ships will also visit ports in Spain as well as Portugal and Malta, the MOD said.