Tension rises over Rajoy’s visit to Melilla

The planned visit by Mariano Rajoy to Melilla today looks likely to increase the tension between Morocco and Spain especially as it comes just one month following José María Aznar’s visit. Tension over the visit rose even further yesterday after the Prime Minister of Morocco, Abbas el Fassi, intervened by sending a letter of protest to Rajoy. The letter which was sent in the name of his party, Istiqlal, asks Rajoy to cancel his visit.

In the letter El Fassi calls the visit ‘an attack on the dignity and national feelings of Moroccans’. He also says that ‘we express our profound deception and reject this provocative visit.’ El Fassi adds that ‘this visit will do nothing but damage the cordial atmosphere between Spain and Morocco’.

Nevertheless Rajoy has decided to go ahead with the planned visit despite the protests received from the Moroccan government and the threat of protests along the border. The Partido Popular (PP) has defended this decision saying that ‘Melilla is Spain’.

However the protests over this latest visit by a member of the Spanish parliament appear to be much stronger than the reaction to Zapatero’s visit to Melilla in 2006 which was the first time a Spanish president had visited Melilla since Adolfo Suárez.

The government and PSOE have been careful to avoid criticising Rajoy’s plans to visit Melilla. According to information received by the press a socialist spokesperson is quoted as saying that ‘the leader of the opposition has the right to visit any Spanish city he wants to’. The Foreign Ministry has been quoted as saying that ‘Spanish sovereignty over Ceuta and Melilla is out of the question’.

To add to all the controversy the second in charge of Al Qaeda has referred to Ceuta and Melilla suggesting that Al Qaeda is prepared to fight to change the political order these two cities established at the end of the Second World War.