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Leila Island; is it over?

By: M. El Younsi

Now, the stand off is over, the tension is defused, the anger is dissipated, and things are back to normal, what did the two neighbors have learned from this unfortunate incident; or should we call it "MISUNDERSTANDING"?

Well, the two neighbors squabbled for quite some times about illegal immigration, drug trafficking, fishing etc., now this! We claim the island, and they do too! We sent few security men to Leila for security purposes, they sent the whole armada in! So, was that an accidental act of misunderstanding? I don't think so, I believe, it was an exaggerated act justified by a feeling of mistrust. However, regardless of what had happened, the manner the two countries conducted themselves, does merit recognition.

So, beyond all of this, and in light of the manner the two neighbors handled this unfortunate incident, one can only assume that, yes, the two neighbors have learned too many thins which they did not think of prior to July 11/02. They quickly realized that it is in their best interest to deflect the tension, and go back to normal situation as good friends and neighbors. This has truly created two winners: Moroccans who are living in Spain, and Spaniards who are living in Morocco. These two people would have been the unfortunate victims and the sole looser had an armed confrontation took place!

Again, it is my own judgment that I call this a solution of the nobles! Unlike other territorial disputes which often times led to wars, destruction, and the killing of innocent civilians, this one went with not even a warning shot!

Further more, the two governments in a peaceful and civilized manner proved to the international community that they can resolve what ever differences they may have through dialog and direct talks. In a spirit of trust and commitments, Spain announced it will leave the island "if Morocco will not reoccupy it again", and so, Morocco announced "it will not reoccupy the island if Spain withdraws its troops". So, in this spirit, both neighbors honored their promises and appreciated the efforts of their common good friends and allies.

The visit of Anna Palacio to Rabat, was in fact an example of that trust and good friendship between the two neighbors. In the midst of the ongoing international conflicts and disputes over land, the international community is yet to see such a disciplined and responsible behavior as the one demonstrated by Morocco.

Morocco, as a peaceful and friendly nation, adopted wisdom and patience, Spain, on the other hand realized that consulting and communicating with Morocco, is far more productive a method than bringing an armada in! This is not the only way to solve disputes, especially between such a good friendly neighbors, but also to preserve and nurture the historic and civic relationship we have which simply cannot be ignored or compromised.

Whether we like it or not, we are neighbors, and we will continue to be regardless of the pending issues. For the Spanish communities in Morocco, and Moroccan communities in Spain, any conflict that goes beyond dialog and direct talks, will be considered as a shameful act unnecessarily jeopardizing their security, coexistence and compromising their well being in peace and harmony.

I believe, all of the strategic factors along with the politics, geopolitics, trade etc., between our two nations, offer no other alternatives but frank, honest, sincere and continuous dialog, cooperation, and mutual respect for each other. Both countries have an exclusively mutual interest in preserving this kind of relationship. Despite the squabbling over fishing, illegal immigration, drug trafficking, and the position on the issue of the Moroccan Sahara, Morocco has been always a faithful friend and a good neighbor to Spain and its people.

King Mohamed VI made it clear since 1999, that his commitment to modernizing the country's infrastructure, improve the economy, and to bring about social prosperity are far beyond the issue of an island! For this reason, the Moroccans -Government and people- have no interest in declaring wars or engage in any other activities beyond the limits of developing the country, and catching with our European neighbors. This is what I think the interpretation that we should keep in mind regarding the incident.

Still, a question remains, the rock standing between the Kingdom of Morocco and the Kingdom of Spain ,,, is it over?






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