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The EU, Britain and Spain say significant progress has been made in talks on Gibraltar’s post-Brexit status

MADRID (AP) — British and Spanish foreign ministers said a new round of talks held Friday on the status of the disputed territory of Gibraltar following Britain’s departure from the European Union was productive and showed significant progress was booked.

The meeting took place between Spaniard José Manuel Albares, Briton David Cameron and European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic in Brussels. The Prime Minister of Gibraltar Fabian Picardo also attended. It was the first time that representatives of the four areas came together for discussions on this issue.

In a statement after the meeting, the parties said that “the discussions took place in a constructive atmosphere, with significant progress being made.

“General political lines have been agreed, including in the areas of airports, goods and mobility. Negotiations on concluding the agreement between the EU and the United Kingdom will continue in the coming weeks,” it added.

All parties would like to reach an agreement before the European elections in June.

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Britain left the European Union in 2020 while Gibraltar’s relationship with the bloc remained unresolved. Talks over a deal to keep people and goods flowing across the Gibraltar-Spain border have made stagnant progress in the 19 rounds of negotiations so far, but both Spanish and British officials have recently expressed optimism about a deal.

In the 2016 British Brexit referendum, 96% of voters in Gibraltar were in favor of remaining in the EU. The small territory at the southern tip of Spain is heavily dependent on access to the EU market for its 34,000 inhabitants.

Gibraltar was ceded to Britain in 1713, but Spain has maintained its claim to sovereignty ever since. Relations regarding the Rock, as it is colloquially known in English, have had their ups and downs over the centuries.

A key sticking point was who had control of Gibraltar airport, which would be an external border of the EU under the proposed free movement agreement. Britain and Gibraltar have opposed Spain’s request to base Spanish border officials at the airport, which is also home to a Royal Air Force base.

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Britain’s Foreign Office said on Thursday that while it did not expect a final agreement on Friday, “it is very important to bring together senior political figures from Britain, the European Commission, Spain and Gibraltar.”

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Associated Press writer Jill Lawless reported from London.

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