Spain said on Tuesday that it was willing to apologize to Bolivia for the incident last week that blocked President Evo Morales’ passage through the airspace of several European countries but insisted it was a “misunderstanding”. “If there is some misunderstanding, I have no problem apologising to the President”, Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo said.
Spain had not closed its airspace to Mr. Morales and had authorized his plane to make a stopover for refuelling in the Canary Islands, the Minister insisted. Mr. Morales’ plane was denied over-flight rights due to suspicions that fugitive US intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden was on board.
Mr. Garcia-Margallo made the comments after Bolivia summoned the ambassadors of Spain, France and Italy and the Portuguese consul to discuss the incident.
Mr. Morales’ plane was forced to make an unscheduled stop on Tuesday in Austria while the President was flying home from a meeting in Moscow, where Mr. Snowden has been stuck at Sheremetyevo International Airport in diplomatic limbo since last month. The plane was searched, and Morales was able to fly on to Bolivia after a 14-hour delay.
Meanwhile, Venezuela confirmed that it would respond “positively” to Mr. Snowden’s asylum request, confirming earlier suggestions it would be willing to take him in.
Mr. Snowden “will have to decide when to fly, if he ultimately wants to fly here”, President Nicolas Maduro said on Monday. However, a decision on the application would first have to be made in Venezuela, he said.
Mr. Morales on Saturday offered “humanitarian asylum” to Mr. Snowden in reaction to the incident with the presidential plane.
Venezuela’s move brings to three the number of countries, all in South America, that have indicated they would grant asylum to Mr. Snowden, who gained worldwide attention in June when he fled to Hong Kong to reveal the existence of PRISM, a US-run global eavesdropping programme.
Nicaragua, which like Venezuela and Bolivia is run by a leftist government critical of the United States, suggested on Saturday it would offer Mr. Snowden asylum. President Daniel Ortega said he would grant it “with pleasure if circumstances permit”. Washington has warned against sheltering Mr. Snowden and has asked Venezuela to extradite the 30 year-old if he enters the country.
Refusal would threaten a further deterioration in the strained relations between the two countries.
Mr. Snowden, who has not been seen in public since he arrived in Moscow on June 23 from Hong Kong, has limited travel options because the US has revoked his passport.
The former intelligence contractor revealed that PRISM, run by the US National Security Agency, was able to intercept and log a large share of the world’s telephone and internet traffic.
The US has charged him with espionage and theft of government property.