By Sonya Dowsett
MADRID (Reuters) – Spain said on Friday it had no reason to apologize after a plane carrying Bolivian President Evo Morales was diverted on suspicion that fugitive U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden was on board.
Bolivia said Morales was returning from Moscow on Tuesday when France and Portugal – later joined by Italy and Spain – banned his plane from entering their airspace, forcing it to land in Vienna.
Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo said in an interview on state television that the country’s airspace was not closed to the Bolivian leader’s plane.
He said a permit granted on Monday for the plane to go through Spanish airspace expired when Morales was grounded in Austria after he was French and Portuguese ban.
The permit then had to be reissued and the Bolivian presidential plane stopped in Spain’s Canary Islands on Wednesday for refueling on its way back to Bolivia.
“Spain doesn’t have to ask for a pardon in any way because its airspace was never closed,” he said of the incident which has caused tension with major trading partner Latin America.
South American leftist leaders from countries including Argentina and Venezuela joined Morales at a summit in Cochabamba, Bolivia, on Thursday. They released a statement demanding answers from France, Portugal, Italy and Spain.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said on Thursday he would evaluate diplomatic relations with Spain.
“What the Spanish government has done is infamy,” he said in televised remarks.
(Reporting By Sonya Dowsett; Editing by Paul Day and Elizabeth Piper)