By Jeff Hay, Melissa R. Jordine
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Extra info for Dispute over Gibraltar (Arbitrary Borders)
Leaders of the Gibraltar community acknowledge their close connection to England but insist that the town and community are separate from the military garrison and that the status of Gibraltar must be in accord with the wishes of the population. The hearings before the UN Special Committee of 24 on Decolonization focused on the status of Gibraltar and the distinction between self-determination and complete self-rule, or independence. The United Nations supports the rights of selfdetermination for all people, but although Gibraltarians want greater autonomy, they insist on remaining under the control of Britain.
Furthermore, the division of opinion in Britain and the extensive debates in Parliament and commentary by the public when issues relating to Gibraltar were raised made avoiding the issue whenever possible an appealing option. The border was clearly arbitrary during this period: There was no official line of demarcation, the British and Spanish forces shifted position, and interaction among the British garrison, the few civilians living on Gibraltar, and the Spanish did not remain consistent in the first several decades of the eighteenth century.
The British were also negotiating without the full support of their allies and thus could not afford for negotiations to drag on for an extended period of time. These issues, and the fact that Britain controlled the territory adjacent to Gibraltar during the negotiations, made it more desirable in the short term to avoid designating an official line of demarcation. After all, during the negotiations that resulted in Spain ceding Gibraltar, the British occupied more territory than was likely to be ceded under the terms of the treaty.