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Spain's Rajoy urges Mediterranean cooperation at Barcelona conference

At a Barcelona conference, Spanish Premier Mariano Rajoy has called for an increased cooperation between Europe, North Africa and the Middle East to deal with the rising threats of illegal immigration and terrorism.

The Spanish prime minister opened the conference on Monday by saying that "the Mediterranean unites us and not does not separate us" to the delegates.

"Jihadist terrorism is a direct threat for the security of our countries and our citizens and without doubt is our main threat right now," Rajoy said, adding that a "shared commitment between both shores of the Mediterranean will allow us to defeat terrorist barbarism."

The Spanish leader said that cooperation between countries of origin and transit would help tackle the migration problem. He also urged the participants to take measures to narrow the wealth gap between the countries to the north and south of the Mediterranean.

Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, the Palestinian Authority and Tunisia have sent their representatives to the conference, while Libya and Syria have opted out.

The one-day conference, the largest gathering of its kind since 2008, is being held in the Catalan capital to discuss measures to respond to threats and problems emanating from southern Europe, particularly in the form of a rising number of migrants from the Mediterranean, and the emerging extremism from the

conflict-ridden Middle East

.

Conflicts and civil wars in North Africa and the Middle East have prompted

a large number of people from these regions to seek refuge in the EU countries

. Thousands of migration seekers have drowned in the Mediterranean and has put an enormous pressure on the resources of countries like Spain and Italy. Security officials say the situation is also leading to a surge of Islamic extremism in Europe.

Members of a suspected Islamist group were seeking explosives to bomb a synagogue or government's offices in Barcelona last week,

according to a Spanish investigating magistrate.

shs/rc (AP, Reuters)

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