Madrid to reset ties with Morocco by backing Western Sahara stance

AFP - [email protected] • 19 Mar, 2022 Updated Sat 19 Mar 2022 09:45 CEST
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Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation, Jose Manuel Albares speaks to the press before an extraordinary Foreign Affairs Council meeting on Ukraine at the EU headquarters in Brussels on February 25, 2022. (Photo by François WALSCHAERTS / AFP)

Spain announced Friday a "new stage" in its tense ties with Morocco after Madrid changed its position and backed Rabat's autonomy plan for the disputed Western Sahara territory. 


Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares said Rabat's 2007 proposal to offer Western Sahara autonomy within Morocco was the "most serious, realistic and credible basis" to end a decades-long dispute over the vast territory.   

Spain has until now tried to appear neutral on the issue of Western Sahara, a territory which Morocco considers its own but where an Algeria-backed independence movement demands a sovereign state.   

A desert region the size of Britain, it was a Spanish colony until 1975.   

Albares' announcement mirrored the language of a statement from Morocco's royal palace which said Spain's prime minister had told the Moroccan king that Madrid backed the autonomy plan.   

In a statement, the Spanish government said a "new stage" in ties between Spain and Morocco had opened based on "mutual respect".   

Spanish Prime minister Pedro Sanchez would visit Morocco as part of the renewal of ties, it added without setting a date.   


Albares will visit Morocco before the end of the month to prepare this visit, the statement said.   

Ignacio Cembrero, a Spanish journalist who is a leading expert on Morocco-Spain ties, said Madrid had "met Morocco's main demand" that Madrid publicly back its autonomy plan.   

"Spanish authorities have always backed Morocco in recent years but discreetly," he told AFP.   

Morocco's foreign ministry it "highly appreciates Spain's positive positions and constructive commitments on the issue of the Moroccan Sahara".   

The Algeria-backed Polisario Front, which has long fought for Western Sahara's independence from Morocco, has demanded a referendum to resolve the conflict.   

The Spanish branch of the group accused Spain of giving in to "blackmail and the politics of fear used by Morocco".   

Ties between Spain and Morocco hit a low after Madrid in April 2021 allowed Western Sahara independence leader Brahim Ghali into a Spanish hospital when he was very sick with Covid.   


The following month Spain was caught off guard when more than 10,000 people swam or used small inflatable boats to enter its tiny north African enclave of Ceuta as Moroccan border forces looked the other way.   

Morocco's ambassador to Spain was recalled for consultations during the Ceuta crisis and has still not returned to her post. 



AFP 2022/03/19 09:45

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