The president of the Saharawi National Council (parliament), Mr Salem Lebsir, deplored the postponement of the visit of the EU delegation to Morocco and Western Sahara. He accused Morocco of trying to gain time to intensify its repression of the Saharawi population in the occupied territories, to intimidate those who, in recent times, have demonstrated against Moroccan occupation.
The MEP, Jorge Hernandez Mollar, a member of the delegation of the European Parliament, said that Rabat had cancelled the visit for fear of a negative effect on Morocco from the report of this delegation on the forthcoming decisions of the UN.
On the question of the postponement of the visit (Morocco proposed the third week of January, which coincides with a plenary session of the parliament), Mollar pointed out that the EP was going to suggest the second week in February.
On the eve of the controversial visit to Morocco by Zapatero, the secretary general of the PSOE - Spanish socialist party, Mohamed Sidati, minister counselor to the Saharawi presidency, in an open letter asked Zapatero to request Rabat to implement the referendum and not to allow himself to be used as currency for the expansionist policy of Morocco. Sidati hopes that the PSOE will reaffirm, at the end of this visit, the right of the Saharawi people to self-determination and independence.
The principal objects of the visit of the head of the main opposition party, decided upon against the advice of the government, consisted in trying to restore normal relations between the two countries following the withdrawal of the Moroccan ambassador, by tackling litigious questions such as the conflict in the Sahara, the fishing agreements, illegal immigration etc.
In an interview, the external relations officer of the PSOE declared, on the subject of the Sahara, that the position of her party had always been to support the resolutions of the UN. We support the referendum, because it is a project approved by the parties, Trinidad Jiménez said. Baker's proposal is another initiative which has the advantage of initiating a process of negotiations looking for an agreement which respects the interests of all the parties, including the Polisario Front, she added. (Ideal, 16.12.01)
Zapatero was received in Morocco like a head of state. He met the Prime Minister, numerous ministers and counselors of the king, and had talks with Mohamed VI. Through his ambiguous statements reported by the Moroccan and Spanish press - Zapatero seems to favour the status of autonomy - he unleashed a wave of protest in circles of solidarity with the Saharawi cause and among the grass roots of the PSOE. Messages of protest were sent to the party headquarters. According to various sources, the King of Morocco would need to meet either the Spanish Prime Minister or the Minister of Foreign Affairs before re-establishing diplomatic relations.
In a letter to the Belgian Prime Minister, Mr Guy Verhofstadt, whose country at present holds the European presidency, Mohamed Abdelaziz asked the EU to intervene "so that TotalFinaElf annuls the illegal contract which it has just signed with Morocco". He expressed his concern at attempts to plunder Saharawi resources. For the Saharawi President, the signature of this contract constitutes "encouragement to Morocco in its opposition to the UN settlement plan".
Referendum - Algeria
Replying to a question on Western Sahara during a press conference in Brussels, the Algerian President made it clear he had raised the issue with European parliamentarians. He reaffirmed the Algerian position of refusal to Baker's proposal for autonomy. Bouteflika further added that Baker had also as his mandate to think of a solution which could attract the agreement of the parties concerned. "Algeria will study with a great deal of attention what he comes up with. And, in so far as it is possible, where we do see a third way, and I mean a third way, which does not destroy the legitimate dream of the Saharawis, and which takes account of the fundamental interests of Morocco and the countries of the region, it is absolutely clear that we will be the first to subscribe to a solution for the situation which we do not want to see become the Kashmir of the region, I mean a chronic problem which is difficult to resolve", he concluded. (aps)
The Spanish government granted to the company Repsol YPF permission to prospect for oil in seven maritime zones around Fuertaventura and Lanzarote, opposite Morocco, over an area of 600 km2, 9.8km from the coast of Fuerteventura and 19.6km from Lanzarote. The authorisation is valid for six years. This decision will make the Moroccan-Spanish diplomatic crisis rebound, which has already been stirred up by the importance Morocco accorded to the visit of the leader of the Spanish opposition to Morocco (Spanish press).
The limits of territorial waters around the Canaries is a contentious subject between Morocco and Spain, another one. Spain bases its decision on international norms, which stipulate equal distance between two coasts less than 400 nautical miles apart. (see week 52/2000)
Morocco, supporting its claim on the general norm of 200 nautical miles, believes that two of the permits granted are situated in its territorial waters. It should be noted that the coast of the Canaries is less than 60 nautical miles from the Moroccan coast (1 nautical mile = 1.8km).
To complete the story, the talks between Mohamed VI and Zapatero took place under the map of "Greater Morocco" which includes the Canary Islands...
After years of silence or wooden talk certain Moroccan papers are beginning to tackle the reality of Western Sahara with a certain degree of seriousness. For example, the daily L'Economiste published reportage carried out in Smara and El Ayoun, as well as interviews with the Wali of El Ayoun and the Secretary general of the OADP party.
Other organs of the press criticise this opening up because it gives Morocco a bad image. It has been pointed out to us that in La vie économique of 07.12.01 Fouad Nejjar denounced those who want to change things with "radical reforms aiming to save the country from chaos and decline". Among these reforms a journalist allegedly suggested "the adoption of a different approach with the Saharawi people, who have the right to self-determination" (we have not been able to obtain Fouad Nejjar's article nor the reference to the statement quoted. Can anyone help?)
21.12.01, Ljubljana, in metelkova city autonomous cultural centre, organized by Teater Gromki and Ales Skornsek-Ples, beneficial event for free Western Sahara. Lecture with slides, videos and Saharawi music. Humanitarian aid is going to be collected (school equipment, toys, clothes, medicines etc.)
26.01.02, The first humanitarian aid from Slovenia to the camps will go on route; information: Andrej Morovic, +386 41 754 456, Ales Skornsek-Ples, email@example.com, T +386 1 422 52 11
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