Moroccan, Spanish ministers meet to cool tensions

23rd August 2010, Comments 0 comments

The Moroccan and Spanish interior ministers began talks in the Moroccan capital Monday, aimed at defusing tensions after demonstrations in Spain's north African enclaves last week.

Talks between Taieb Cherkaoui and Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba respectively were "cordial and peaceful," a Moroccan official said.

The two ministers discussed recent protests in Ceuta and Melilla, Spanish enclaves bordering Morocco where demonstrators accused Spain's border police of brutality and racism, the official said.

Security experts from both sides later joined the ministers for further talks.

Spain's King Juan Carlos spoke by telephone with Moroccan King Mohammed VI last week in a bid to appease mounting tensions and it was agreed he would visit Morocco in the near future.

Rabat and Madrid traditionally have close ties but tensions have simmered over Melilla and Ceuta, which have populations of around 70,000 and 80,000 respectively.

Morocco has always considered the two enclaves as "occupied cities", fuelling diplomatic tensions that led Madrid in May to reaffirm Spanish sovereignty over Melilla and Ceuta.

© 2010 AFP

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