Spain confirms mutual expulsion of diplomats with Russia

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Madrid, Dec 29 (IANS/EFE) Spain’s foreign ministry confirmed Tuesday that Russia expelled two Spanish diplomats in response to Madrid’s decision last month to expel two Russians “for conducting activities incompatible with their status”.

The two Spanish diplomats expelled from Moscow last week have the rank of secretary, Foreign Ministry sources told EFE.

The Spanish daily La Razon reported Dec 10 that the expulsion of the two Russian officials was due to their engaging in acts of espionage.

Both governments “consider the incident over and done with, and are working to staff their diplomatic delegations as soon as possible”, the Spanish foreign ministry said.

Spain’s top diplomat, Trinidad Jimenez, will fly to Moscow Jan 16 to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov for the purpose of settling the crisis once and for all, and to review the state of bilateral relations.

Spain and Russia will celebrate the 2011 “Dual Year” with the goal of strengthening political, economic, cultural and social ties, and the Spanish foreign ministry said that “the entire programme of activities for that event remains as planned”.

Russian officials have made no comments as yet about the incident of the expulsions.

Jimenez proceeded to banish the two Russian diplomats following a request from the director of Spain’s CNI intelligence service, Gen. Felix Sanz Roldan, who presented “solid proof” of espionage, the Madrid daily El Pais said.

This has been one of the most notorious diplomatic conflicts since Spain and Russia re-established relations in February 1977, 18 months after the end of the Franco dictatorship.

The two countries had another significant incident in July 2007, when the CNI announced the arrest of ex-agent Roberto Florez for offering Russia classified information.

The CNI’s then-chief, Alberto Saiz, gave an unprecedented press conference at which he explained the case, which he defined as “unique in the history of Spanish intelligence services”, though it did not endanger the security of Spain, NATO or the European Union.

Florez was sentenced to 12 years in jail in democratic Spain’s first prosecution for treason, but the Supreme Court last week reduced his sentence to nine years.

The high court concluded that it was not proved that Florez revealed the information to Russia, though he could have had the intention of offering it to that nation’s secret service.


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