RABAT, Nov 7, 2007 (AFP) – Moroccan Prime Minister Abbas El Fassi condemned on Wednesday Spain’s “occupation” of two disputed enclaves, in the wake of a visit by Spain’s King Juan Carlos which prompted Rabat to recall its ambassador to Madrid.
“Along with Israel, Spain is today the only nation reluctant to turn the pages on occupation” of territory, El Fassi declared in an interview in the daily Aujourd’hui le Maroc.
El Fassi insisted that only negotiations could save relations with Madrid following Juan Carlos’ two day visit this week to Ceuta and Melilla — where he also reasserted Spain’s sovereignty. The two towns on Morocco’s Mediterranean coast have been held for centuries by Spain.
“The only way to save the friendship between Morocco and Spain and keep the peace in the Mediterranean basin is that the Spanish neighbour makes a last effort to open negotiations with Morocco,” said El Fassi, who is also head of the nationalist Istiqlal party.
For Rabat, negotiations must concern “means of returning Sebta (Ceuta) and Melilla to the motherland,” El Fassi said in the interview. About 100 protestors gathered Wednesday outside the Cervantes Institute, which is the Spanish cultural centre in Rabat, chanting slogans demanding the return of the enclaves.
The Western Sahara is itself a vast disputed territory, annexed by Morocco after Spanish settlers withdrew in 1975, and it has a strong resistance movement, the Polisario Front, which waged a separatist war until the United Nations brought about a 1991 ceasefire. Spain first settled Melilla in 1496 and Ceuta in 1580 and Spanish Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rabalcaca said on public television Wednesday that “these two towns are Spanish and Spaniards live there who want to see their king”.
Despite the war of words, both sides seemed keen to avoid any long-term fallout from the dispute. In Cueta, Juan Carlos spoke of Spain’s “sincere friendship with its neighbours,” while Morocco’s King Mohammed VI on Tuesday urged a “responsible dialogue which guarantees our rights of sovereignty and takes into account the interests of Spain.” The head of Morocco’s intelligence services, Mohamed Yacine Mansouri, who was in Spain on a visit Wednesday, stressed that Rabat and Madrid would maintain close cooperation in the fight against terrorism despite the enclaves row. “Such work and such a fight should not suffer through any provocation, any misunderstanding nor any blunders,” Mansouri said.
I must say I found this piece of news rather intriguing – Spain fighting for two enclaves Ceuta & Melilla, two towns on Morocco’s Mediterranean coast that have been held for centuries by Spain. It kind of makes me smile considering the stink that spain kicks up every time they feel the need to remind the UK of Spain’s right to Gibraltar.
Here we have Spain fighting over two towns on Morroco’s coast and then try to asert the right over Gibraltar which belongs to the UK. I think Spain should first give up those two enclaves and maybe Great Britain will listen to them regarding any negotiations with Gibraltar. Great stuff, made my day anyway. Typically Spanish as one might say…