LONDON – Spain’s King Felipe VI on Wednesday said he was confident of resolving a long dispute over the Spanish-claimed British territory of Gibraltar.
The Spanish king was speaking to the British parliament after Queen Elizabeth II gave him and his wife Queen Letizia a spectacular welcome to Britain earlier for the first Spanish state visit since 1986.
The British queen and her husband, Prince Philip, travelled to Buckingham Palace with the Spanish royal party in a procession of horse-drawn carriages accompanied by hundreds of mounted troops in a traditional guard of honour.
Queen Elizabeth and King Felipe led the parade in central London, sitting together in the first carriage, a State Landau built for the coronation of King Edward VII in 1902.
Prime Minister Theresa May and other senior politicians attended the welcome ceremony, after the British army promised the visitors, who arrived in London late Tuesday, their “finest ceremonial welcome.”
The three-day visit falls amid differences between Britain and Spain over Brexit and the Spanish-claimed British territory of Gibraltar.
It is expected to be the last state visit hosted by Prince Philip, 96, who announced in April that he would stop carrying out public duties after August.
King Felipe, Queen Elizabeth and their spouses are all descendants of Queen Victoria, the British monarch’s great-great-grandmother, who ruled from 1837 to 1901.
The king’s speech to parliament mentioned links dating back some 500 years between the two royal families.
“Spain and England, the Kingdom of Spain and the United Kingdom, have indeed a long shared history, during which we have frequently stood shoulder to shoulder
“It is just as true, however, that during our rich and fruitful history there have also been estrangements, rivalries and disputes, but the work and determination of our governments, authorities and citizens have relegated such events to the past,” the king said.
“I am certain that this resolve to overcome our differences will be even greater in the case of Gibraltar, and I am confident that through the necessary dialogue and effort, our two governments will be able to work towards arrangements that are acceptable to all involved.”
Simon Manley, the British ambassador to Spain, said Britain wants to use the visit to “recognize the strength of the relationship that we have, so that our two great nations can have a bilateral relationship in the years ahead that is worthy of our history but also our future.”
“Our diplomatic relations with Spain go back all the way to the Middle Ages,” Manley said in a video preview of the visit.
“Our royal families today share great grandparents, but also this is a relationship that’s rooted in contemporary realities too.”
Some 18 million British people visited Spain last year, while 300,000 British citizens live in Spain and 130,000 Spanish citizens live in Britain, according to government data. -dpa