Morocco restates claim to Ceuta and Melilla
1 February 2006
MADRID – The Spanish prime minister visited the Spanish city of Ceuta on Wednesday, ignoring comments by the Moroccan government that his presence was “deplorable and inopportune”.
Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero is on a two-day tour of Spain’s African territory bordering Morocco. On Tuesday, he visited Melilla.
To start with, the Moroccan government retained a silence over the tour, which is the first by a reigning Spanish president in 25 years.
However, some of Morocco’s press criticised the visit openly and later on Tuesday, the government’s spokesman Nabil Benabdela stated that the Rabat government had restated its claim to Ceuta and Melilla. “Given that the positions are known, we can only deplore this visit,” he said.
Zapatero chose not to comment on the remarks, cancelling a planned press conference in Ceuta, with his office simply insisting that relationships between the two countries remained “excellent”.
He met with Ceuta’s president, Juan Jesus Vivas, and addressed the comunidad’s assembly.
He made no explicit statement about the Spanish sovereignty of Ceuta and Melilla, despite calls on him to do so from some quarters. However, he stressed that Ceuta residents were entitled to “the same rights” as any other Spaniards.
Referring to his visit, he said: “I’m making it because it was long-awaited and wanted by the citizens of Ceuta and because I believe it is the duty of the government to ensure all Spaniards are treated the same way and feel close to their government.”
Zapatero visited a secondary school and, as in Melilla, a short-stay centre for immigrants whose documents are being processed. The centre currently houses 500 asylum-seekers.
[Copyright EFE with Expatica]
Subject: Spanish news