Iceland has re-affirmed its claim to the waters around Rockall which are at the centre of a diplomatic dispute between Scotland and Ireland.

Two weeks ago Scotland threatened to take action and detain trawlers that it says are fishing illegally around Rockall.

The rocky outcrop lies around 230 nautical miles northwest of Donegal and 240 miles west of Scotland.

While disputed for decades, the row only intensified when Scotland said it would arrest the crew of vessels from outside the UK - including trawlers from Ireland.

Up to now there had been no official response from Iceland or the Faroes.

But a spokesperson for the Iceland Ministry of Foreign Affairs has now told RTÉ News that "the Hatton-Rockall area is part of the Icelandic continental shelf".

In a statement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said: "Icelandic fishing vessels periodically catch blue whiting from common stocks near Rockall. However, no Icelandic vessels are in the area at this time of year.

"As communicated to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, in relation to claims made by the government of the United Kingdom, Government of Ireland and government of the Kingdom of Denmark together with the government of the Faroes, the Hatton-Rockall area is part of the Icelandic continental shelf but is subject to overlapping claims by these three States.

"The Hatton-Rockall area is therefore in dispute, which means according the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea that the Commission cannot take the two claims into consideration without prior consent of the other States involved.

Iceland did not give its consent, as such consideration would prejudice the rights of Iceland over the continental shelf in this area.

"Quadrilateral talks have occurred between the parties with a view to finding a solution to the dispute regarding the delimitation of the continental shelf of the Hatton-Rockall area."

In a statement, the Department of Foreign Affairs said that the Hatton Rockall area and the rock of Rockall are "two separate and unrelated issues".

It said: "On the Hatton Rockall area, the four countries concerned began to meet regularly from 2001 in an effort to resolve the issue of their overlapping claims there, but to date have been unable to reach agreement. 

"As regards the rock of Rockall, the Irish Government has consistently said that it should be dealt with through diplomacy and dialogue."

There were indications of an easing of tensions in the dispute between Ireland and Scotland over disputed fishing waters around Rockall.

And despite the Scottish threats no boats have been detained.

In a statement on 11 June, the Irish Government said that following close contacts at official level, it had been agreed that a process of intensified engagement, involving senior officials from both administrations, would take place.

The statement also said it Government was hopeful that the latest difficulties could be de-escalated.

The Government statement did not spell out what will be the practical implications of the agreed initiative.

It is accepted in Dublin as well as Edinburgh that access to waters around Rockall will change if the UK leaves the European Union.

It is also accepted that the Rockall area access question would become part of a wider negotiation the EU and the UK, post-Brexit.

Scotland passed the Island of Rockall Act in 1972, which imposed a 12-mile exclusion zone around the rock, but Ireland has never recognised UK jurisdiction over Rockall.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told the Dáil earlier this month: "Rockall is a rock, essentially a sea stack in the middle of the ocean. It's uninhabitable, uninhabited and I don't think it is something that Ireland and Scotland should fight over. We don't have a claim on it. We don't accept any other sovereign claim on it.

"I think that the fisheries and territories around it should be shared. The Irish vessels in those waters have EU quota and these waters are part of EU waters. And under the Common Fisheries Policy we believe they are in their rights to continue to fish in the area around Rockall."

Reporting: Kieran Dineen