Leila Islet: Organization of Islamic Conference, Arab League Voice Solidarity with Morocco
Morocco-Regional, Politics, 7/17/2002
Several Arab and Islamic organizations have voiced solidarity and support to Morocco in the crisis that broke out with Spain after Morocco opened a surveillance post on the Mediterranean islet of Leila.
The secretariat general of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) expressed the OIC solidarity with the Kingdom of Morocco in its efforts to defend its rights and sovereignty, emphasizing that the Island of Leila constitutes a part of the territory of a Muslim State Member of the Organisation and bears no relation to the territories of the European Union.
Last week, Morocco set up a surveillance post in the tiny uninhabited island of Leila, located less than 200 meters off the Moroccan Mediterranean coast, some 40 KM east of Tangiers, and explained that the operation is a mere drive to check illegal emigration, drug trafficking and other unlawful activities in the Gibraltar strait.
In a press release issued this Tuesday the OIC expressed "surprise at the Spanish Government's display of force and unjustified threats directed at an OIC Member State." The OIC also expressed "surprise at the hasty position of the European Union on this issue before examining the full facts of the situation," considering "this position in contradiction with the true objectives of the Moroccan measures in the Island aimed at combating drug-trafficking, international terrorism, and clandestine emigration, which are all part of the priorities of the European Union."
The OIC Secretariat General, which recalled that it has been following with deep concern the recent developments over the Moroccan Island of Leila, and that this concern is motivated by the principles of Islamic solidarity and the protection of the security, sovereignty, independence, and national rights of Islamic States, stressed that "the position of the organization is based on giving priority to defusing tension, reinforcing international peace and security, and resolving all outstanding issues through dialogue, negotiations and peaceful means."
In Cairo, Arab League Secretary General, Amr Moussa, voiced "full support" of all Arab States to Morocco's rights and their solidarity with the Kingdom over the Leila Islet.
Moussa made the statement Tuesday in Cairo after a meeting of the Arab League at the level of permanent representatives, and during which Morocco's ambassador to Egypt and to permanent delegate to the League, made a presentation on the matter.
The Arab League chief said the position of the League is to support Morocco in its dispute with Spain over the Island. He stressed the need to carry on contacts and discussions between Morocco and Spain and to spare no effort to avoid an escalation of tension.
He added that he was in permanent contact with the Moroccan minister of foreign affairs and cooperation, Mohamed Benaissa.
The Damascus-based Arab Parliamentary Union on its part said in a release issued Tuesday that the setting up of a surveillance post on the Moroccan Leila Islet is "a normal exercise of Morocco's sovereignty over a part of its antional territory."
The APU voiced "solidarity with Morocco and support to its sovereignty over all parts of its national territory, which also includes the cities of Sebta, Melillia and the neighoring Jaffarine Islands."
The APU voiced "surprise at the escalation adopted by some parties, which, while claiming to work for establishing security and peace in the Mediterranean region, back Spain in its occupation of territories located on another continent, within a sovereign state, in defiance of historical and geographic facts and peoples' rights and sovereignty."
The Arab Parliamentary Union said it was following with "deep concern the tension between the two friendly and neighboring countries, Morocco and Spain, over the islet, especially after the Spanish Government deployed gunboats near the island, escalating tension between the two countries."
The disputes between Morocco and Spain on the Moroccan zones still under Spanish occupation cannot be settled by a display or use of force, but through dialogue and negotiation, said APU, calling the Spanish government to start direct negotiations with Morocco for a peaceful way out to the issue of the Moroccan regions still occupied by Spain and to respond to Morocco's proposal to set up a Moroccan-Spanish commission that will seek a fair and peaceful settlement, guaranteeing Morocco's historical rights and sovereignty and protecting Spain's interests.
The Union urged world parliaments and governments to work to contain the Moroccan-Spanish dispute and to encourage a direct dialogue in a order to preserve relations between the two countries and relations between Spain and the Arab-Islamic world.
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