“Historic” reconciliation in Rabat between Morocco and Spain

In this photo of the Moroccan Royal Palace, King Mohammed VI (right) and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez pose for an iftar meal, at the royal king's residence in Salé, Morocco, April 7, 2022.

After a year of estrangement, it was necessary to renew the diplomatic thread between Morocco and Spain: Pedro Sanchez, the head of the Spanish government, accompanied by the Minister of Foreign Affairs José Manuel Albares, was received in courtThursday, April 7, by King Mohammed VI for a “iftar”, breaking the Ramadan fast, offered in his honor. A sign of the importance of his visit in the eyes of Moroccans.

“We have agreed to define a sustainable and ambitious roadmap”Mr Sanchez told reporters, citing his conversations “historic moment”† In a joint statement, the Moroccan sovereign and the head of the Spanish government agreed to:ushering in an unprecedented phase in relations between the two countries who had cut diplomatic ties last year due to conflict over Western Sahara

This vast desert area, rich in phosphates and with waters full of fish, has for decades resisted Morocco against the Sahrawi separatists of the Polisario Front, supported by Algeria. While Rabat argues for a status of autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty, the Polisario Front calls for a referendum on self-determination under the auspices of the United Nations (UN).

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“The Dangerous Game of Sanchez”

The normalization of relations between the two countries was made possible by Madrid’s decision to express its support for the Moroccan plan of autonomy for Western Sahara. Spain “Recognizes the importance of the Sahara issue for Morocco, as well as Morocco’s serious and credible efforts within the framework of the United Nations to find a mutually acceptable solution”takes note of the joint statement.

“As such, Spain considers the Moroccan autonomy initiative, presented in 2007, as the most serious, realistic and credible basis for the resolution of this dispute”confirms the document again.

A few hours before landing in Rabat, the socialist prime minister faced a setback in the Spanish Chamber of Deputies, which denounced the resignation of the post “historical” Madrid’s neutrality towards the former Spanish colony.

Rabat, which controls nearly 80% of Western Sahara, proposes an autonomy plan under its sovereignty, while the Polisario Front calls for a referendum on self-determination.

If Mr. Sanchez has disproved any idea of… ” play “ on this dossier he alienated his left-wing allies and the right-wing opposition, but also Polisario and Algiers, the Spanish gas supplier. The Algerian daily newspaper Expression canceled Thursday “Dangerous play by Sanchez has exacerbated tensions in the region”

Reopening of the borders

“One of the first objectives will be to restore the circulation of goods and merchandise at the Ceuta and Melilla border crossings”, Spanish enclaves located on Morocco’s northern coast, Mr. Sanchez after his short trip. Morocco had halted this cross-border trade, which was considered smuggling, in 2019.

“We will continue with the gradual reopening of border crossings, to ensure an orderly flow of people (…) and goods will also circulate normally”promised the Spanish leader. “Maritime passenger connections between the two countries will be restored immediately and gradually” until it’s fully opened, the statement describes.

A high-level meeting between the two governments will be held before the end of the year to “road map” located in Rabat. From “matters of common interest”are the “reactivation” cooperation in the field of migration and the delineation of territorial waters. Working groups are being set up to deal with these sensitive files.

Also among the priorities: trade and investment – ​​Spain is Morocco’s main trading partner – and energy cooperation following the closure by Algiers of the Maghreb-Europe (GME) gas pipeline.

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For Madrid, the main aim of restoring relations with Rabat is to ensure that its ” collaboration “ in the control of illegal immigration, while Morocco, from which most migrants leave for Spain, is regularly accused by many observers of using it as a means of pressure.

The Spanish government also hopes that Rabat will weaken its claim to the enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla. But many analysts warn of the lack of real guarantees Spain has received from Morocco.

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Le Monde and AFP