Morocco border blockade of Spain enclave suspended

Morocco border blockade of Spain enclave suspended
# 19 August 2010 00:46 (UTC +04:00)
Baku – APA. Activists in Morocco who have been blockading food shipments into a Spanish enclave agreed Wednesday to suspend the protests until the end of Ramadan next month, a merchants association said, APA reports quoting “Associated Press”.
The deal means the intermittent blockade is over for now, but will resume if the problem that triggered it — alleged brutality and racism by Spanish border police against Moroccans entering the enclave of Melilla — flares up again, said Yusef Kaddur, president of an association of Muslim merchants in the enclave of 70,000 people on the North African coast.
"They have given us a one-month truce," Kaddur said.
The activists accepted the argument that the people of Melilla should not be made to suffer for what is essentially a problem to be addressed by the governments of Spain and Morocco, he told The Associated Pressgriffi.
"We are not the ones responsible for what has happened at the border," Kaddur said in reference to a series of incidents over the last month in which Morocco has accused Spanish police of violence and racism at the dusty frontier crossing. "We are the ones being made to suffer."
Many people in Melilla and elsewhere in Spain say the protesters must have had at least tacit support from the government of Morocco, which claims Melilla and another Spanish enclave further west, Ceuta, because Moroccan police did nothing to stop the blockades.
These have been off-and-on rather than nonstop since the first episode late last week.
Overnight Tuesday, trucks were briefly prevented from crossing into Melilla. On Wednesday no fish, fruits or vegetables came in, forcing its second food shortage in a week, after truckers decided to stop shipments until the dispute was resolved.
Spain and Morocco are key allies, cooperating closely on fighting Islamic terrorism and preventing illegal immigration. Morocco supplies Melilla with perishable products and construction materials like bricks and gravel, and about 35,000 Moroccans cross daily into Melilla to work or shop.
The protesters here have used the border dispute to press Moroccan claims that Spain cede control of the two Spanish enclaves. Spain rejects any talk of giving them up.
Morocco has made five complaints in the past month alleging Spanish police mistreatment of Moroccans, and accuses the Spanish coast guard of finding and then abandoning a group of ailing boat migrants off the coast. Spain denies the claim.
The countries’ relations were tested in 2002, when a handful of Moroccan soldiers occupied a nearby rocky Spanish island inhabited by goats. The conservative government of then-Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar sent in Spanish commandos to eject the Moroccan troops.
On Wednesday, Aznar flew to Melilla as his Popular Party, now in opposition, accused the ruling Socialist Party of bungling efforts to reduce tensions and avoid the Melilla blockades.
Aznar told reporters that the enclave and its residents were victims of "harassment and government neglect."
The Spanish government said Aznar’s visit could hurt the situation, as Spain’s interior minister prepared to visit the Moroccan capital of Rabat on Monday in an effort to repair relations and discuss issues such as terrorism and immigration.
The government is "working on the problem, and it will be sorted out very soon, despite the Popular Party," Spanish Development Minister Jose Blanco said.