Perejil/Leila Island dispute may jeopardize Maghreb-Europe Gas Pipeline
Although recently resolved, the conflict between Morocco and Spain over the tiny Island of Perejil may still jeopardize the Maghreb-Europe Gas Pipeline (GME). The dispute is feared to have reduced Morocco’s readiness to cooperate on the expansion of the GME, thus blocking gas exports from Algeria to European markets.
During the 10-day dispute, Algeria has sided with Spain, receiving strong criticism by the Moroccan press. Morocco and Algeria, both members of the Arab Maghreb Union (UMA), have been involved in a long-standing dispute over the political status of Western Sahara territories.
According to Ali Aissaoui, of the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, Algeria has gone to great lengths to advance the GME project, created as an amalgamation of independent ownership sections of the pipeline. The scheme was hoped to maximize the value of Algerian gas exports to European markets, while minimizing the political and economic leverage of Morocco, the transit country.
Seeking the independence of the Western Sahara, the Polisario militia began fighting Morocco, which claims sovereignty over the region, in 1975. Algeria has long backed Polisario's efforts to promote sovereignty for the former Spanish colony.
Spain landed 75 troops on Perejil on July 11 and removed Moroccan gendarmes who had been deployed there. After a 10-day standoff, Spain agreed to withdraw its troops but firmly reiterated its ownership claims to the islet and its territorial waters. — (menareport.com)
© 2002 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)