Moroccan, Spanish FMs to meet Monday; Rabat says Leila deal – “victory”
Spain and Morocco faced the challenge on Sunday of proving they can bridge their deep differences, after Washington successfully intervened to resolve a military dispute over the uninhabited islet of Leila (Perejil).
The two neighbors are now projected to work on patching up ties after accepting an American brokered deal on the disputed island. Newly appointed Spanish Foreign Minister Ana Palacio is scheduled to meet her Moroccan peer, Mohamed Benaissa, on Monday in a symbolic encounter in the Moroccan capital, Rabat.
Palacio had been planned to meet Benaissa in Brussels on Monday, where she was due for her first gathering of European Union foreign ministers since taking over the post from Josep Pique in a Cabinet shake-up by Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar. The change of venue to Rabat was symbolic, marking not only Palacio's first visit to Morocco since taking office, but also the first formal meeting between the two countries' foreign ministers since October last year.
Morocco's official MAP news agency praised the deal as a victory and said the accord put an end to the "Spanish occupation" of the islet. "(The accord) strengthened Morocco's position because it put as a precondition for dialogue, the immediate withdrawal of the invading forces, which was obtained in the end," it said.
On the ground, the Spanish garrison withdrew from the islet. Witnesses said Spanish flags were removed shortly after Madrid announced the deal late Saturday. Helicopters withdrew Spanish soldiers who had earlier evicted a Moroccan contingent. (Albawaba.com)
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