Spanish King Calls for Solution for Western Sahara
Spain's King Juan Carlos appealed late Monday to Morocco to find a solution to its conflict with separatists in the Western Sahara during a visit by Moroccan King Mohammed VI.
He also called for Morocco to cooperate in a UN-sponsored peace plan for the troubled region, including backing a referendum on self-determination in the Western Sahara.
"The excellent relations that my country enjoys with all the countries of the Maghreb allows us to renew our appeal for the settlement of differences ... notably differences on the Western Sahara," he said.
"Spain shares the view that only the firm will to cooperation between the two parties will allow them to overcome the difficulties still facing the UN settlement plan," the Spanish king added.
Mohammed VI arrived in Madrid earlier Monday on his first state visit to Spain since he took power in July last year.
The king, accompanied by his sister Layla Meryem and several ministers, was met at the airport by Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Pique.
Mohammed VI, who came to Madrid on a private visit in March, was taken to the Pardo Palace on the outskirts of Madrid, where he will stay until Wednesday.
As well as meeting Juan Carlos, he is also to have a working meeting with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar on Tuesday.
The Moroccan king is scheduled to sign several economic accords including one agreement aimed at creating Spanish-financed projects in northern Morocco worth 50 million dollars.
Madrid is furthermore expected to agree to convert some 40 million dollars of Moroccan debts -- estimated to total 879 million dollars -- into private investment.
In recent years, Spain has strengthened its presence within its southern neighbor, especially in the relatively undeveloped northern regions of the country.
During the visit, the Moroccan ministers accompanying the king are set to hold bilateral talks with their Spanish counterparts, when they are expected to discuss a renewal of fishing accords between Morocco and the European Union.
The accords expired last year.
Juan Carlos, who Mohammed VI calls his "uncle," is hosting a gala dinner for the sovereign at the Royal Palace, in the heart of Madrid on Monday evening.
Moroccan residents now form the largest foreign community living in Spain, having grown from 15,000 legal residents in 1990 to over 250,000 today, according to Spanish government sources -- MADRID (AFP)
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