Angel Manuel Ballesteros
Many years ago, without the slightest success but with permanent conviction, I have been proposing the creation of an office for Spanish diplomatic disputes that allows their unavoidable joint and coordinated treatment. Any other system is inappropriate given the characteristics of the disputes. Only with Moratinos, a profound connoisseur of the Maghreb, to whom I had raised the issue before directing Santa Cruz and who replied “we will do it when I am a minister”, did it seem that the idea was going to materialize. But neither did he.
The introito is appropriate because next July there will be a new anniversary of the Perejil incident, from 11 to 17, with its occupation by half a dozen Moroccan gendarmes and subsequent eviction by a well-fed Spanish force. After a series of incidents, initiated with the call for consultations of the Alaouite ambassador in Madrid, nucleated by the Spanish position in the UN against Morocco in the Sahara conflict and culminated with the deployment of five frigates of the Navy in the bay of Al Hoceima, a week earlier, the facts were produced considered by various writers as close to the casus belli, which ended up in status quo, the joint use of the islet, which temporarily resolves the situation but suspends the question of sovereignty.
Had we had an office for contentious issues, Parsley, unknown to so many of our rulers, would possibly have received a more restful, more accurate, less extralimited treatment.
I knew the islet well and meditated if, as Bérard maintained and quoted Unamuno, it could be the island of Ogigia, where Calypso kept Homer several years before his return to Ithaca, but I was convinced that it was not because Homer’s description of his trees, his birds, his beaches, did not coincide with Parsley. Nor did the grotto, the dwelling of the goddess, seem appropriate for such an august occupant. It is to the island of Gozo, near Malta, that legend attributes the best titles.
In the line of the classic European travellers who, in order to get to know the country, pretended to be Arabs, I am one of the few who, accompanied by Moroccan friends, had transformed me into a distinguished sidi, plus mute as a complementary safe-conduct, I introduced my head, as the pilgrims did, under the catafalque of Idriss I, founder of Fez, origin of Morocco. I also maintain, after visiting the Lixus with its Roman ruins, that the garden of the Hesperides is not situated in the longed-for Larache, the most Hispanic city in the area in which it has been said that the owner of the hotel España refused to change the name of the establishment in the middle of the Green March. What I have no doubt about is the location for all intents and purposes of the Sahara, where I was the only diplomat to have perhaps carried out one of the greatest protection operations for compatriots of the 20th century.
But what I am fundamentally interested in transmitting now around Perejil are two points of diplomatic technique, of unequal importance and scope although both are major keys, on which I have written and lectured a great deal. First, that in my opinion there is a better one, not a single one, but a better right of Spain on the islet, which is otherwise part of Ceuta, as Professor Vilar has documented in his research in the Lisbon tower of Tombo.
And secondly, the singular and traditional and broad role, including Don Juan with Hassan II with whom cordiality was accentuated by the complicit smoke of two hardened smokers, of the direct diplomacy that does not secrete, in the singular Hispano-Moroccan relations, which perhaps had to be resorted to in the first instance rather than in other people’s mediations. And although the contacts between the thrones are no longer as fluid and omnimodally useful as they were (I myself hyperbolicé last year “the twilight of royal diplomacy” in view of the inoculable delay in the first State visit of the Spanish crown to Rabat) they seem to be a pertinent invocation for any assumption whose entity requires it, starting naturally with the contentious ones.
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