Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, who has been criticized within his coalition for putting an end to Spain’s neutrality in Western Sahara, directed to Morocco on Thursday, where he will close with King Mohammed VI, the page of a diplomatic crisis that has damaged relations. Between the two countries. Back to the issue at the origin of the tensions.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez is expected to arrive in Morocco Thursday on the occasion of a two-day official visit that is supposed to mark the end of a major diplomatic crisis between the two countries and the revival of bilateral relations.
The Moroccan royal palace said in a statement that Mohammed VI “will hold official talks” with Pedro Sanchez and “will also present an iftar” in Ramadan “in honor” of his “illustrious host”.
The breakfast invitation was welcomed by the head of Spanish diplomacy, Jose Manuel Alparís, who on Tuesday noted that it is seen in Madrid as “a very strong sign of friendship”.
However, Spain and Morocco, who have been scrambling since April 2021, have come a long way. The neighbors began to normalize their relations on March 18, after a year of crisis, thanks to a change in Madrid’s position on the status of Western Sahara, the former Spanish colony.
The file that was raised to the rank of the national issue in Morocco is very sensitive. Since 1975, the Sharifian kingdom has opposed the Sahrawi separatists from the Polisario Front, with the support of the Algerian authorities. For the United Nations, Western Sahara, 80% controlled by Morocco, is a non-self-governing territory.
In a breach of Spain’s decades-long neutrality on the issue, Pedro Sanchez publicly declared his support for the plan for autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty proposed by Rabat in 2007. It is a plan he now considers “the most serious, realistic and credible basis for resolving this dispute” over Western Sahara.
Sharara Ibrahim Ghaly
Ironically, the diplomatic crisis between the two countries was caused in April 2021 by the presence of the leader of the Polisario Front, Ibrahim Ghali, in Spain against the background of the Western Sahara issue.
“In danger of death” After contracting Covid-19, Morocco’s number one enemy arrived in Spain, according to the daily El Pais, in the utmost secrecy on April 18, on a medical plane from the Algerian presidency and in possession of a plane. Diplomatic passport.
He authorized at the “highest level”, according to El Pais, that this concession granted to Algeria, the main supplier of gas to Spain, angered Rabat, which called for a “transparent investigation” into the circumstances of the arrival of the accused Brahim Ghali. By entering Spain “with forged documents and usurped identity”.
Strong exchanges, a reminder of the Moroccan ambassador … The reception of the leader of the Sahrawi separatists, which Madrid justified on “humanitarian reasons”, caused several weeks of tension. Brahim Ghaly’s departure for Algeria, at the beginning of June, was not an arrangement for anything. Targeted by two complaints of “torture” and “genocide”, Ibrahim Ghali heard a Spanish judge who did not take coercive action against him, leaving him free to leave Spanish territory, much to the chagrin of the Sharif.
Reassembled, the latter was pressed by playing the migration card. Thus, Madrid’s traditional partner in the fight against illegal immigration loosened its border controls for a few days in mid-May, allowing 10,000 migrants to pass on the beach or by sea to the Spanish enclave of Ceuta, located in northern Morocco.
Spain leans in favor of the Moroccan plan
Madrid had described the Moroccan initiative as “blackmail” and “aggression on the Spanish borders as well as the borders of the European Union.” Pedro Sanchez had said it was “unacceptable” for “the borders to be opened so that 10,000 migrants could enter a Spanish city in less than 48 hours” due to “differences in foreign policy”.
For his part, Rabat stressed that the crisis between the two countries “did not end (it was not) with the departure of” Ibrahim Ghali, because it is linked to the Spanish position on Western Sahara: this is considered “sacred”. The cause of the entire Moroccan people.
Socialist Pedro Sanchez leans toward Morocco’s autonomy plan, after several months of tension, and puts Spain on the side of France, Germany and the United States. However, he is now being criticized even within his coalition, notably by the radical left party Podemos, in favor of self-determination for the Sahrawis.
Above all, by patching things up with Rabat, in the name of “close cooperation” with the Moroccans, “necessary to protect the integrity of Spaniards (…), primarily (thanks to) the fight against irregular immigration”, Madrid clashed with Algiers.
Algeria denounced the “transition”, and recalled its ambassador to Spain on March 19, opening a new period of tension with a key partner of the country.