A “historic” reconciliation in Rabat between Morocco and Spain

After a year of estrangement, the diplomatic thread between Morocco and Spain had to be renewed: Pedro Sanchez, head of the Spanish government, accompanied by Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albarís, was received Thursday, April 7, by King Mohammed VI before a “the breakfast”Ramadan fasting in his honor. A sign of the importance of his visit in the eyes of Moroccans.

“We agreed to define a sustainable and ambitious roadmap”Mr. Sanchez told reporters, calling his talks “Historic moment”. In a joint declaration, the Moroccan King and the Spanish Prime Minister agreed“The inauguration of an unprecedented stage in the relations between the two countries” who cut diplomatic relations last year due to the conflict over Western Sahara.

This vast desert region, rich in phosphates and fish-infested waters, has for decades opposed Morocco’s Sahrawi separatists from the Polisario Front, backed by Algeria. While Rabat calls for an autonomy situation under Moroccan sovereignty, the Polisario calls for a referendum for self-determination under the auspices of the United Nations.

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Sanchez’s dangerous game

Normalization of relations between the two countries was made possible by Madrid’s decision to show its support for Morocco’s autonomy plan 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.”notes the joint statement.

“As such, Spain considers the Moroccan initiative for autonomy, which was presented in 2007, to be the most dangerous, realistic and credible basis for resolving this conflict.”confirms the document.

A few hours before his arrival in Rabat, the socialist prime minister suffered a setback in the Spanish Chamber of Deputies, who denounced the abdication of the post. “Historical” Madrid’s neutrality towards the former Spanish colony.

Rabat, which controls nearly 80% of Western Sahara, is proposing an autonomy plan under its sovereignty, while the Polisario is calling for a referendum for self-determination.

If Mr. Sanchez refutes any idea “turn” In this file, he denied his left-wing allies and the right-wing opposition, as well as the Polisario and Algeria, the supplier of gas to Spain. Algerian daily to express denounce Thursday “Sanchez’s dangerous game has exacerbated tensions in the region”.

Border reopening

“One of the first goals is to restore the movement of goods and merchandise at the border crossings in Ceuta and Melilla.”, the Spanish enclaves on the northern coast of Morocco, said Mr. Sanchez after his brief visit. Morocco halted this cross-border trade, which is considered smuggling, in 2019.

“We will move forward with the gradual reopening of the border crossings, to ensure an orderly flow of people (…) and goods will also be traded normally”the Spanish leader promised. “The maritime passenger links between the two countries will be restored immediately and gradually.” Until the full opening, the statement details.

It is scheduled to hold a high-level meeting between the two governments before the end of this year to implement the Convention against Torture ” road map “ Founded in Rabat. in between “Matters of Common Concern”she “reactivate” Cooperation on migration and demarcation of territorial waters. Working groups will be created to handle these sensitive files.

Also among the priorities: trade and investment – Spain is Morocco’s leading trading partner – and energy cooperation after Algeria closed the Maghreb-European (GME) gas pipeline.

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For Madrid, the main objective of restoring relations with Rabat is to secure them “cooperate” In controlling illegal immigration While Morocco, where most immigrants leave for Spain, many observers regularly accused him of using them as leverage.

The Spanish government also hopes that Rabat will ease its claim to the enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla. But many analysts warn that there are no real guarantees Spain will get from Morocco.

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Le Monde and Agence France-Presse

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