BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Russian Polish Albanian Greek Czech Ukrainian Serbian Turkish Romanian
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Europe  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
LANGUAGES
EDITIONS
Wednesday, 17 July, 2002, 23:30 GMT 00:30 UK
Spain island landing 'like war declaration'
Spanish troops and Spanish flag
The Spanish flag now flies over the island
Morocco's Foreign Minister has accused Spain of carrying out the equivalent of an act of war in landing troops on a disputed island off the Moroccan coast.

Mohammed Benaissa said Spain had acted in defiance of an agreement reached between the two countries under which it had agreed not to land on the uninhabited island if Moroccan troops withdrew.


The Moroccan Kingdom demands, before anything else, the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of Spanish armed forces

Moroccan Foreign Ministry
The week-long row over the island, which Morocco calls Leila and Spain Perejil, intensified on Wednesday when Spanish forces evicted a handful of Moroccans who had occupied the island for several days.

Morocco insists the row could have been resolved diplomatically and has demanded the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of the Spanish troops.

'Invasion'

Mr Benaissa said the Spanish landing was an "invasion, in contradiction with international legality."

Morocco has protested to the United Nations, calling on the international body to order an immediate withdrawal of Spanish troops from the island.

Moroccan soldier is repatriated
The Moroccan troops have now been repatriated
"Confronted with this aggression, the Moroccan Kingdom demands, before anything else, the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of Spanish armed forces from Leila island, which is an integral part of Moroccan territory," the foreign ministry said.

But Spain's Foreign Minister, Ana Palacio, has defended its military action, saying Spain acted in self-defence and intended to remove its troops from the island as soon as possible.

Romano Prodi, president of the European Commission, said the Commission was ready to "facilitate dialogue" between two countries in an effort to resolve the dispute.

Eviction

Spanish forces moved onto the island in the early hours of Wednesday, seizing control back from a dozen Moroccan soldiers who had set up camp on the island on 11 July.

The eviction took place without any casualties, according to a statement from the office of Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar.

Click here for a map of the area

The operation began at about 0615 (0415 GMT) and involved naval units, special ground forces and combat aircraft, Spanish media reported.

Perejil island
200m off the Moroccan shore in the Straits of Gibraltar
Less than 1km in diameter
Rocky and uninhabited
Visited by herdsmen who take their goats to graze
Named after the wild parsley which grows there - Perejil means "parsley" in Spanish
Known in Morocco as Leila
Despite a military build-up in the area, Spain had given no prior public warning that the Moroccan troops might be removed by force.

Six Moroccans were taken prisoner and moved to the Spanish enclave of Ceuta, just five kilometres (three miles)from the island, but they were repatriated a few hours later.

By midday two Spanish flags could be seen flying above the island in place of the Moroccan one that the troops had raised.

The small rocky island lies within Moroccan territorial waters, and has been Spanish territory since 1668.

Morocco says it sent the troops to Perejil as part of efforts to crack down on terrorism and illegal immigration.




Click here to return

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jim Fish
"Morocco has called on Spain to leave the Island altogether"
The BBC's Mike Wooldridge
"Spain hopes it has sent out a warning signal to Morocco"
Aziz Mekouar, Moroccan ambassador to the US
"The wise thing would be for the spaniards to withdraw"

Talking PointTALKING POINT
Disputed land
Was Spain right to retake the island of Perejil?
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Europe stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Europe stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes