Morocco FM arrives in EU headquarters to discuss islet row with Spain
Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar tried to ease matters with Morocco over a disputed island, saying Madrid did not wish tension, but he reiterated his rejection of a Moroccan presence on the islet.
Aznar said Spain was not seeking to foment tensions with Morocco. Spain did not accept a fait accompli, but neither was it interested in continued tensions "that are in no one's interest," he said. "As I said from the outset, we want to return to the pre-July 11 status quo," Aznar stressed, referring to the date the crisis erupted.
Meanwhile, Moroccan Foreign Minister Mohamed Benaissa was scheduled to arrive in Paris on Friday and thereafter go to European Union headquarters in Brussels to present his country's case.
Morocco won't try to reoccupy the disputed island if Spain withdraws its troops, Benaissa was quoted Friday as saying. "I say publicly: Morocco has no intention of returning to Leila when the Spanish troops leave," the Moroccan Minister said in an interview Thursday night. His comments were reported in La Vanguardia and other newspapers on Friday.
Despite international pressure to end the row over the island just off Morocco's Mediterranean coast, Spain and Morocco appeared no nearer a solution Thursday, AFP reported.
Libya's Foreign Minister Abdel Rahman Shalgham began diplomatic efforts to soothe the row over the island, which is known as Perejil in Spain and Leila in Morocco, and claimed by both. Spain offered to withdraw its soldiers from the island if Rabat pledged never again to send troops there.
But Morocco has said talks with Madrid can only begin once the Spanish troops had left the disputed territory. Some 200 Moroccan youths responded to appeals from left-wing groups and demonstrated Thursday outside the Spanish embassy in the capital Rabat, denouncing what they said was Spain's colonialist attitude and demanding the return of the Spanish enclaves Ceuta and Melillia.
Spanish Defense Minister Federico Trillo said 75 Spanish legionnaires were stationed on the island and the warships dispatched to the area would stay as long as necessary. (Albawaba.com)
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