Row over Perejil flares again
23 February 2004
MADRID – Spain moved quickly Monday to diffuse a new row with Morocco over a tiny island at the centre of a long-running dispute.
After-dinner remarks by Spain’s defence minister threatened to rekindle a row with Morocco over Perejil Island.
Madrid insisted that relations remained cordial despite Federico Trillo’s comments that he would have liked to assert sovereignty.
The uninhabited Perejil Island is at the heart of a centuries-long dispute.
Spain and Morocco broke off diplomatic ties in 2002 when Moroccan soldiers occupied the island and Spain sent in troops to recapture it.
Help from Washington was needed to end the standoff over the island known to Moroccans as Leila and in English as Parsley.
The latest controversy was stirred Friday when Trillo told guests at an election campaign event that, had he been in his post eight years ago when the Popular Party came to power, he would have liked to have taken the island so Spanish fishermen could fish there.
The remark was aired repeatedly by Spanish radio.
By late Sunday, Spanish Foreign Minister Ana Palacio said the incident was unfortunate but that she had been assured by her Moroccan counterpart Mohamed Benaissa that no offence had been taken.
“This is not a pleasant situation for anyone,” Palacio said.
Trillo said he had not meant to cause offence.
“If someone wants to take [my words] out of context and in the hopes of poisoning the excellent relations between Spain and Morocco, then they should consider my words as having never been said,” he said.
Spain and Morocco have made moves to improve relations following the 2002 standoff.
The island lies just of the Moroccan coast.
[Copyright EFE with Expatica]
Subject: Spanish news