Morocco canceled high-level talks with Spain aimed at improving relations, accusing Spanish side of provocation by landing an army helicopter on a disputed islet.
"It is an unacceptable act by which Spain again violated Morocco's territory and airspace," the Moroccan foreign ministry said in a statement late Sunday. The statement added Foreign Minister Mohammed Benaissa had called off a scheduled meeting on Monday with his Spanish peer, Ana Palacio, in Madrid.
In Madrid, Palacio said she regretted Morocco's move and dismissed reports the Spanish helicopter had tried to land on Perejil/Leila, a tiny, uninhabited islet a few hundred meters from Morocco's coast and claimed by both states.
Relations between the two nations have been tense since July, when Spanish troops ejected a group of Moroccan soldiers who had occupied Perejil two weeks earlier.
According to AP, Palacio told Spanish TV network Antena 3 that the helicopter flew over the islet Sunday afternoon after a Moroccan patrol boat was spotted approaching it, but left once the pilot saw the vessel was not trying to dock.
She conveyed Madrid was keen to restore good relations with its southern neighbor. She said there could be a link between Morocco's decision and legislative elections in the kingdom scheduled for Friday.
Spanish Defense Minister Federico Trillo said that the helicopter had merely overflown the disputed islet. He addded a "minor incident (was) provoked by the Moroccans as a pretext to suspend the visit to Madrid" by Benaissa. (Albawaba.com)
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