Spanish forces evict Moroccans in dispute

Spanish forces have evicted a unit of Moroccan soldiers from a disputed Mediterranean island, the Spanish news agency Efe said today.

Spanish forces have evicted a unit of Moroccan soldiers from a disputed Mediterranean island, the Spanish news agency Efe said today.

The eviction took place without any casualties, Efe said, quoting the prime minister’s office.

"The Spanish government has found itself obliged to order an eviction of the Moroccan detachment established on Perejil Island," Efe said.

The move came as a surprise, since Spanish government officials had repeatedly said that they wanted a diplomatic solution to the crisis.

The crisis began last Thursday, when 12 Moroccan soldiers landed on the island, set up tents and raised their national flags.

Meanwhile, Spain deployed another warship to waters near the island.

Defence Minister Federico Trillo said the frigate Castilla would arrive later today in Ceuta, a Spanish North African enclave about three miles from the island.

He said the Castilla would join the four warships already off the North African coast.

Yesterday, four Moroccan soldiers were seen from the mainland collecting supplies from a dinghy that came from a Moroccan navy ship.

Two small Moroccan flags flew above the island.

Hardly bigger than a football pitch, the island has belonged to Spain since 1668, but is claimed by Morocco.

There has been no Spanish presence there for the last 40 years.

In Cairo, Amr Moussa, secretary general of the Arab League, said the 22 nation bloc supported Morocco’s claim - but that talks between Spain and Morocco should continue.

The European Union has backed Spain.

Spain accuses Morocco of failing to crack down on smugglers who ferry tens of thousands of illegal immigrants every year across the Straits of Gibraltar.

More in this section

IE_logo_newsletters

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox