LONDON (Reuters) - Britain and Spain have agreed to try to find a way to defuse tensions over the contested British overseas territory of Gibraltar to avoid damaging relations, Prime Minister David Cameron's office said on Wednesday.

Cameron spoke to his Spanish counterpart Mariano Rajoy by phone to express "serious concerns" about the diplomatic spat, which has flared up in recent weeks and seen Spain threaten to restrict access to the rocky outpost.

Cameron said Britain was not willing to discuss Gibraltar's sovereignty, but was open to talks to try to ease tensions.

"Mr Rajoy agreed that he did not want the issue to become an obstacle in the bilateral relations and that we needed to find a way to de-escalate the issue," Cameron's office said in a statement.

Spain had agreed to relax border checks that have caused long delays for people crossing last month, the statement added. There was a "real risk" that the two countries' relations would be damaged unless the situation improved, it said.

Spain disputes Britain's three centuries of sovereignty over Gibraltar, a territory on the southern tip of Spain that is home to close to 30,000 people. Long-running tensions over the territory flared up last month when boats from Gibraltar dumped concrete blocks into the sea to create an artificial reef.

(Reporting by Peter Griffiths; Editing by Stephen Addison and Andrew Osborn)




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