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Monday, 22 July, 2002, 13:31 GMT 14:31 UK
Q&A Spain v Morocco
Spain and Morocco have been involved in a land dispute over a tiny Mediterranean island, known as Perejil (Parsley) in Spain and Leila (Night) in Morocco. Now that forces from both sides have left the island, BBC News Online asks if the fuss is over.

So far this has been about one little island but could it herald discussions about other disputed territories?

With the situation on Perejil/Leila reverting to the status quo under which neither side has troops there, Morocco would like the issue of all the Spanish islands and enclaves discussed.

The late King Hassan of Morocco declared that only a blind man could not understand the Moroccan position.

Spain has two city enclaves on the Moroccan coast - Ceuta and Melilla. It argues that they have been Spanish since the 15th Century and should remain so, and that there is therefore nothing to negotiate about.

There is no immediate prospect of any fundemental resolution.

But Morocco will not give up its claim and remembers that Spain did return another enclave, Sidi Ifni, further down to the coast to the south, 13 years after Moroccan independence. So it lives in hope.

Why is Spain ready to talk about Perejil but not about Ceuta and Melilla?

When it gave up its protectorate over parts of Morocco in 1956, Spain kept more than its city enclaves. It kept a string of small islands and islets associated with them of which Perejil/Leila is just one.

Others include the three volcanic islands of Chafarinas, off Melilla, which are a fishing and nature paradise.

Spain's claim to Perejil, however, is not pressed as hard as its claim to the enclaves on the mainland.

Perejil is not mentioned in the treaties between Spain and Morocco though Ceuta and Melilla are.

The island's links with Ceuta are somewhat tenuous given that nobody actually lives on it.

This is probably why Spain is content for neither side to occupy it and why Morocco chose it to publicise its case.

Morocco has certainly got international attention, perhaps its real aim all along.

How come it was left to the Americans to get the troops removed?

The United States intervened because the European Union, which had offered mediation, proved ineffective.

Spain did not want mediation from the EU - it wanted support.

The US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, has more clout anyway and worked the phones.

America has interests in and influence with both sides.

Both support the war on terrorism, and Washington would like the dispute put on one side while the war on terrorism is pursued.

Both Spain and Morocco have made important arrests of al-Qaeda suspects recently.

What impact might this dispute have on the talks about Gibraltar?

Spain has been thrown onto the defensive as it tries to justify how it can claim enclaves in Morocco while demanding back the British enclave of Gibraltar.

The people of Gibraltar, who reject Spanish control over them, are delighted to see Spain in some discomfort.

So any effort to make Gibraltar accept a Spanish-British deal is made even harder.

The talks between Spain and Britain over Gibraltar have established that both governments are willing to share sovereignty in principle, and talks will resume in the autumn.

It is still unclear whether Spain's willingness to share sovereignty means, in effect, that it will put its claim to sole sovereignty on hold indefinitely.

If not, this could prove to be a sticking point.

What else are Spain and Morocco arguing about?

They argue about the Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony which Morocco has taken over. Spain has not recognised that takeover.

Morocco complains that Spain is too supportive of the Polisario movement which wants Western Saharan independence.

They argue over the maritime boundary between the Canary Islands and Morocco.

This is all about continental shelves, and affects oil drilling rights. Morocco complained earlier this year about Spain granting exploration rights in waters off the Canaries.

They argue about fishing. Morocco has resisted signing a new fishing agreement with the EU which would let EU boats into its waters in return for payments. Spain has the biggest EU fishing fleet and needs such an agreement.

They argue about illegal immigration from Morocco into Spain. New Spanish restrictions on immigration are likely to upset Morocco.

The BBC's Jonathan Charles
"The island is not much bigger than a football pitch"
Ana Palacio, Spanish Foreign Minister
"Spain does not want to remain on Perejil"

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