Morocco: Tension with Spain over Chafarinas Islands

Rabat calls Spanish ambassador after operation announced

16 July, 17:58

(ANSAMed) - RABAT, JULY 16 - Moroccan Foreign Minister Saad Dine El Otmani has asked the Spanish ambassador for ''clarification'' on recent statements by Spanish Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz during his visit to the Melilla Spanish enclave, that Spain would deploy civil guards troops in the Chafarinas Archipelago, officially to help combat illegal immigration and drug trafficking, government spokesperson Mustapha El Khalfi said today.

Morocco is claiming rights to the Chafarinas Islands, which belong to Spain but are in Moroccan territorial waters.

''The minister has expressed the Moroccan government's worry about these statements, given that these kinds of measures require total coordination with the Moroccan authorities that have jurisdiction, and a common initiative, far from any unilateral action,'' El Khalfi said.

A similar 2002 incident almost degenerated into an armed conflict between the two countries over the island of Persil (Leila to the Moroccans), located 250 kilometers from the Moroccan coast. Moroccan troops landed on the island and set up camp, ostensibly to combat illegal immigration and drug trafficking. Spain responded by sending elite military units, who captured 6 Moroccan soldiers. The entire Arab League except Algeria supported Morocco, and the entire EU except Portugal and France, sided with Spain. The stand-off was resolved peacefully thanks to US diplomatic intervention. (ANSAMed).

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