Spain urges France for joint policy on North Africa

12th July 2004, Comments 0 comments

MADRID, July 11 (AFP) - EU partners France and Spain should forge a joint policy towards north Africa, Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos said in an interview published Sunday, urging a resolution to a long-standing territorial dispute over Western Sahara.

MADRID, July 11 (AFP) - EU partners France and Spain should forge a joint policy towards north Africa, Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos said in an interview published Sunday, urging a resolution to a long-standing territorial dispute over Western Sahara.  

The message received in Algiers, Rabat or Tunis (should be) the same whether it comes from Madrid or from Paris," Moratinos told the daily El Mundo, adding: "In order to unite the Maghreb (north African) region, the problem of Western Sahara must be resolved."  

The former Spanish colony, annexed by Morocco in 1975, is claimed by the pro-independence Polisario Front, which is backed by Algeria.  

Moratinos warned, however, that a referendum in the territory at this stage would not necessarily resolve the issue. In 1988, Morocco and the Polisario Front agreed to a ceasefire ending a 22-year war for independence and for the holding of a referendum under the auspices of the United Nations. The UN set up a mission to monitor the ceasefire and organize the referendum in 1991.  

"A referendum at this time without a political solution could lead us to a generalized crisis in North Africa," he said.   He said it was impossible to tell how Morocco would react. "And would the Moroccan armed forces accept being defeated in a referendum?" he added. "Second option. Morocco wins the referendum, and then what?"  

Moratinos said Spain's new socialist government would work in coming months and years towards modernizing its approach to North Africa.  

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who took office in March, visited Morocco in April and is scheduled to go to Algiers on Wednesday for talks with President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

Moratinos said a visit to Tunis was also being planned.  

The government has said the Arab world and the Mediterranean would be the focus of its foreign policy, which under the previous centre-right government was oriented towards the United States. One of the first moves of the Zapatero government was to remove Spanish troops from Iraq.  

Moratinos said he would attempt to resume a dialogue over the British colony of Gibraltar when he meets British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw in Brussels on Monday.

Tensions have risen over the territory, which is claimed by Spain, since a visit by Britain's Princess Anne and the docking in Gibraltar of a British nuclear submarine, despite Madrid's objections. 

© AFP

 

Subject: French news

 

 

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