EU, Britain and Spain say significant progress made in talks on post-Brexit status of Gibraltar

British and Spanish foreign ministers said significant progress was achieved during talks held Friday over Gibraltar's status following Britain's exit from the European Union.

EU, Britain and Spain say significant progress made in talks on post-Brexit status of Gibraltar

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

The meeting was between Spain's José Manuel Albares, Britain’s David Cameron and European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic in Brussels. Gibraltar Chief Minister Fabian Picardo also attended. It was the first time representatives from the four areas had come together for talks on the issue.

In a statement after the meeting, the parties said "discussions took place in a constructive atmosphere, with significant progress achieved.

"General political lines have been agreed (on), including on airport, goods and mobility. Negotiations will continue over the coming weeks to conclude the EU-UK Agreement," it added.

All sides are eager to clinch a deal before European elections in June.

Britain left the European Union in 2020 with the relationship between Gibraltar and the bloc unresolved. Talks on a deal to ensure people and goods can keep flowing over the Gibraltar-Spain border have made halting progress in the 19 rounds of negotiations so far, but both Spanish and U.K. officials have recently expressed optimism about a deal.

In Britain’s 2016 Brexit referendum, 96% of voters in Gibraltar supported remaining in the EU. The tiny territory on Spain's southern tip depends greatly on access to the EU market for its 34,000 inhabitants.

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

A major sticking point has been who controls Gibraltar’s airport, which under the proposed free-movement deal would be an external border of the EU. The U.K. and Gibraltar have resisted Spain’s insistence that Spanish border officials be based at the airport, which is also home to a Royal Air Force base.

The British Foreign Office said Thursday that while it did not expect a final agreement Friday, "getting senior political figures from the UK, European Commission, Spain and Gibraltar in one room is significant."