The kings of Morocco and Spain talked on the telephone this week. They were trying to defuse tensions between their two countries over the Spanish enclave of Melilla. This week, Moroccan protesters have been trying to block access to the territory. Daniel Woolls is a reporter for The Associated Press in Spain.
JEB SHARP: The kings of Morocco and Spain used actual telephones to talk to each other this week. They were trying to defuse tensions between their two countries over the Spanish enclave of Melilla. This week, Moroccan protesters have been trying to block access to the territory. Daniel Woolls is a reporter for The Associated Press in Spain. He tells us first, where Melilla is located.
DANIEL WOOLLS: Melilla is a city of about 70,000 people. It's bounded on one side by the Mediterranean and on the other side by Morocco itself. With a long, ten miles long, series of razor wire fences to separate it from Morocco and to keep migrants from coming in.
SHARP: And it's described as claimed by Morocco but it is in fact a Spanish enclave. What does that actually mean in reality?
WOOLLS: A Spanish enclave in the physical sense that it's a little piece of Spain nestled on the coast of Morocco. It's claimed by Morocco, or has been claimed by Morocco, for decades if not hundreds of years, but the Spaniards argue is that it's been Spanish since before Morocco was even a sovereign state. So Spain does not even entertain talk of sharing sovereignty, much less giving it up to Morocco.
SHARP: And what is the nature of the protests?
WOOLLS: The protests follow three weeks of tensions at the main border crossing between Melilla and Morocco. There've been a series of incidents at the border crossing in which, allegedly there was violence between police and people who were trying to come into the city. And what's happened now is that a group, sort of an umbrella grouping, of civic associations yesterday started blockading the border crossing, but in a commercial sense in that they brought trucks trying to deliver food into Melilla. And they've taken a break today and they're going to take a break again on the weekend, but it will resume Monday. And they're gradually going to expand the sort of list of goods that they're going to deny entry into Melilla.
SHARP: And it's certainly being taken seriously by Spain. I mean the kings of Spain and Morocco have actually been on the phone trying to sort it out.
WOOLLS: Exactly and that's a very telling event, the phone call. The king of Spain is widely, widely respected here even though he's sort of a figurehead role. But he generally stays out of politics. He doesn't really comment on current events for the most part and so for the king to intervene and call King Mohammed of Morocco, yes it was taken here as very, very significant. Was seen as an effort to nip this in the bud.
SHARP: And finally Daniel are there wider implications for the rest of us?
WOOLLS: I would say this. The areas that Spain considers very crucial in its relationship with Morocco is fighting terrorism and also illegal immigration. So, in a broader sense, I mean I don't think anyone here really thinks that this is going to boil over much, much further. But those are the kind of things that could be jeopardized if things got really, really bad. This sort of very important cooperation in fighting Islamic terrorism, Islamic extremism, and the fight against illegal immigration coming up into Spain which is the gateway to southern Europe.
SHARP: Daniel Woolls is a reporter for The Associated Press. He's based in Madrid. Thank you.
WOOLLS: You're welcome.