Morocco
Morocco and Spain in quarrel over offshore oil

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afrol News, 25 May - Morocco "categorically rejects" an oil prospecting license the Spanish government had given to Repsol company offshore the Spanish Canary Islands. The Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs claims the concession to prospect oil had been given on Moroccan territory. 

Speaking at the lower chamber of the Moroccan Parliament, Foreign Affairs Minister Mohammed Benaissa this week expressed that the Moroccan-Spanish problem of the off-shore oil prospecting license given by the Spanish authorities to Repsol company could only be brought to a solution through negotiations. 

The Spanish government on 21 December last year had approved a licence for the Spanish company Repsol to conduct oil prospecting in a maritime zone located between the Canary Island Fuerteventura and the Moroccan town Tarfaya. 

The prospect area of 600 square kilometres is situated only 9.8 kilometres outside Fuerteventura island and around 100 kilometres off Morocco. The Rabat government immediately had deemed the licence "a unilateral, arguable and hostile act" as the delimitation of the territorial seas between the Canary Islands and Morocco has not been agreed on.

Both countries refer to international laws and customs. Spain in 1997 defined the maritime limit to be the median line between the two territories, according to the international norm on delimitation of countries having opposite coasts with a distance of less than 720 kilometres.

Morocco does not accept this, referring to what it sees as the international custom to be applied in this case. Morocco claims it has entire sovereignty over its continental shelf, which extends beyond the median line favoured by Spain. "There is a clear difference between the continental rights of the states, and those of islands controlled by other states, which is the case of the Canary Islands," the Moroccan minister insisted. The Canary Islands are one of Spain's 18 autonomous provinces.

Minister Benaissa says the matter must be resolved by comprehensive negotiations between the two countries. He referred to international laws and customs, which stipulate that a delimitation should be set in agreement between the two countries. 

Neighbours Morocco and Spain have a long-running diplomatic crisis over a series of matters. Morocco lays claim to the two Spanish cities Ceuta and Melilla on the Moroccan northern coast. The government is also increasingly bitter over the massive popular sympathy among the Spaniards for the POLISARIO Front, fighting for the independence of the former Spanish colony Western Sahara. Also illegal immigration from Morocco to Europe over Spain is a matter of increasing concern. 

Diplomats in Spain see Morocco's quest for negotiations over the delimitation between Morocco and the Canary Islands as an attempt to trade off Spanish concessions in other controversial areas. The Moroccan government also earlier this week had stated that "pending problems between Morocco and Spain should be addressed in a comprehensive approach."


Sources:
Based on Moroccan govt, press reports and afrol archives.


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