Morocco Protests Offshore Exploration Licenses

The Moroccan government is protesting a decision made late last year by Spain to grant Repsol-YPF nine oil exploration concessions in the Atlantic between Morocco and the Canary Islands. Citing a letter from Morocco's foreign ministry on January 31, 2002 delivered to the Spanish embassy in Rabat, the reports said Morocco characterized the authorization as an "unacceptable and hostile act." The dispute revolves around differing claims regarding territorial waters, with Spain insisting the dividing line runs halfway between the islands of Lanzarote and Fuerteventura and the Moroccan-controlled territory of Western Sahara and the North African country saying it has jurisdiction over the continental shelf, which juts out closer to the Canary archipelago. Repsol previously said it planned to begin geological and seismic studies in the offshore area next year. The nine concessions total around 60,000 hectares.