Wednesday, July 28, 2004

SPAIN AND MOROCCO join forces:
Morocco and Spain have not always been the best of neighbours, so Tuesday's announcement from Madrid that the two neighbours are to send a joint peacekeeping force to the troubled Caribbean nation of Haiti came as something of a surprise.

Relations between the two nations have been strained over recent years. Areas of disagreement have ranged from fishing rights to the existence of two Spanish enclaves on Morocco's coastline. Just two years ago, Morocco landed troops on the island of Perejil, which is claimed by Spain. That move led to the recalling of both countries' ambassadors.

However, things appear to have changed under the new Spanish government of Jose Zapatero. The fact that most of the suspects arrested in direct connection with the 11 March bomb attacks in Madrid were of Moroccan origin appears to have had an impact, leading in May this year to the two countries concluding a deal on reinforcing their co-operation in combating terrorism, illegal migration and drug trafficking.

[...] The change in direction has caused concern in some quarters that Spain is about to drop its longstanding support for the people of its former North African colony Western Sahara, which is currently under Moroccan control. Alberto Pires sees this as a worrying development:

"Up to now, mostly, we were continuously helping the Western Saharan population in the referendum [on their future status] with the Baker Plan, and so on. Now Spanish foreign policy is aligning against the interests of the [Western] Sahara population. And this is a worry for most of the Spanish political analysts."
And this is a real shame, too.