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Sunday, 21 July, 2002, 20:19 GMT 21:19 UK
Spanish press looks beyond Perejil
Spain had sent 75 soldiers to dislodge Moroccan forces
Both sides were under pressure to resolve the dispute
The agreement reached between Madrid and Rabat to resolve their dispute over the tiny island of Perejil, or Leila as Morocco calls it, features heavily in Spain's press.

Several newspapers weigh the impact that the most recent row will have on relations between the two sides.

They are hopeful that the defusing of this crisis will open the doors for discussions on other unresolved territorial disputes.

The two North African cities of Ceuta and Melilla remain Spanish enclaves.

'Open wounds'

"The opportunity provided by the defused Perejil crisis cannot be wasted", says the influential El Pais.


Spain and Morocco have much to gain with a normalisation of ties

El Mundo

It warns that the events of the past 10 days have left "open wounds which must promptly be healed".

In an editorial entitled "Return to square one", it urges the two governments to restore normal, diplomatic ties and to take this opportunity to discuss "all aspects of their battered bilateral relations, which have been dominated by folly for far too long".

The right-wing newspaper ABC, however, takes a more pessimistic view.

It fears that this crisis may be just the first step in a Moroccan "long-term strategy of defiance, with [Western] Sahara and Ceuta and Melilla in its sights".

The situation was tense
Spanish troops have now left the island

The Madrid daily El Mundo calls on the two sides to "look to the future", stating that both countries have much to gain with a normalisation of relations.

This sentiment is echoed by another Madrid-based paper La Razon, which suggests that "the conflict must serve to remind both sides that a policy of severance is as futile as it is dangerous."

Spanish diplomacy

The same paper praises the actions of the Spanish Government in bringing the dispute to a peaceful end.

"The conduct of the Spanish government has at all times been in line with the seriousness of the situation which was potentially explosive," it says.

El Pais, however, is less than complimentary.

It laments that Spain's performance "has not been what was to be expected from a country which boasts of its weight on the international scene".

The European Union and the United States also come in for praise for brokering the agreement.

"We must thank everyone for their efforts, such as those of [EU Commission President Romano] Prodi and [US Secretary of State Colin] Powell," says La Razon.

El Mundo agrees, praising Mr Powell's "rapid and effective job".


The crisis has served to show Morocco's devious and bizarre diplomacy

ABC

El Pais does not share this view.

The paper believes that the action taken by the EU to resolve the dispute "is a further demonstration of its weakness when it comes to resolving problems between partners and allies".

Mocking Morocco

The papers are unanimous in their criticism of Morocco's role in the dispute.

"The crisis has served to show Morocco's devious and bizarre diplomacy," ABC says.

While most praise the diplomacy of Spanish Foreign Minister Ana Palacio, her Moroccan counterpart, Mohamed Benaissa, comes in for a hard time.

According to El Mundo, Mr Benaissa was left "looking ridiculous" after promising that the island would not be reinvaded after Spanish troops left - a day after refusing to guarantee that Morocco would not reoccupy the island.

"His words are gone in the wind in less than 24 hours," the paper says.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

See also:

20 Jul 02 | Europe
18 Jul 02 | Europe
16 Jul 02 | Media reports
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