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Mexico’s president calls for pause in relations with ‘conquistador’ Spain

Mexican President Andres Manuel López Obrador called Wednesday for a “pause” in relations with former colonial ruler Spain, amid frictions with Spanish companies that he accuses of corruption.

MEXICO-SPAIN-LOPEZ OBRADOR-SANCHEZ
Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (R) and Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez arrive to deliver a joint statement, at the National Palace in Mexico City on January 30, 2019. (Photo by Alfredo ESTRELLA / AFP)

“The pause is: we’re going to give ourselves time to respect each other and not be seen as a land of conquest,” López Obrador said at his daily news conference.

“We do want to have good relations with all governments… but we don’t want them to rob us,” he said.

Although the relationship with Spain “is not good now,” Mexico has no plan to break off diplomatic ties or recall its ambassador, López Obrador said.

He again hit out at Spanish firms such as Repsol and Iberdrola, who have investments in Mexico’s energy industry.

López Obrador accuses the companies of paying bribes in the past in exchange for contracts, with the complicity of Mexican and Spanish governments.

“It was a conspiracy at the top,” he said. “They looted us.”

The comments appeared to catch Spain off guard.

“The Spanish government has not taken any action that could justify a statement of this type,” Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares said, noting the importance of the two countries’ ties.

“Far from a pause, what we’re talking about is an increase in our business relations,” he said in comments released by his office.

López Obrador’s remarks come at a time when foreign investors are concerned about his planned energy reforms.

Critics say the moves unfairly favor state-run firms dependent on fossil fuels over private electricity producers such as Iberdrola who have invested in renewable energy.

Relations between Mexico and Spain have been strained since Lopez Obrador took office in 2018.

Madrid has rejected his demand for an apology for the events of the conquest.

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POLITICS

Qatar emir visits Spain as EU eyes gas alternatives

Qatar's emir began a state visit to Spain on Tuesday as Europe seeks to diversify its natural gas supply sources to reduce its energy dependence on Russia.

Qatar emir visits Spain as EU eyes gas alternatives

Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani was welcomed by King Felipe VI at Madrid’s royal palace at the start of his two-day visit, his first to Spain since he ascended the throne in 2013.

The emir, who is accompanied by Qatar’s foreign and energy ministers, is scheduled to hold talks with Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez on Wednesday.

Spain and Qatar are expected to sign a dozen economic and commercial contracts during his visit, mainly regarding energy, according to a Spanish government source.

The visit comes as the European Union is aiming to cut its reliance on Russian gas by two-thirds this year due to Russia’s invasion of  Ukraine.

Russia currently supplies around 40 percent of Europe’s gas needs.

Qatar, which has the third-largest natural gas reserves in the world, is currently Spain’s fifth-biggest supplier of natural gas after the United States, Algeria, Nigeria and Egypt.

The country accounted for 4.4 percent of Spain’s total gas imports in April and the Spanish government hopes this share could increase.

“We are working closely with out European counterparts” on the long-term supply of liquefied natural gas (LNG), Qatar’s ambassador to Spain, Abdullah Al-Hamar, told Spanish daily 20 Minutos.

The emir of Qatar’s trip to Europe will also include visits to Germany, Britain, Slovenia and Switzerland, where he will attend the World Economic Forum which will run in the mountain resort of Davos from May 22nd-26th.

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