Sánchez with King Mohamed on a previous occasion. / EFE / VIDEO: EUROPA PRESS

Spain and Morocco agree to improve relations between the two countries

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, José Manuel Albares, has postponed his own trip to Rabat after the prime minister agreed to visit Mohamed VI soon to open “a new stage” in their relationship

XABIER GARMENDIA Madrid

Two weeks after Spain’s sudden U-turn on the western Sahara, the government is keen to bring the diplomatic crisis with Morocco to an end as soon as possible. Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez spoke to King Mohamed VI by phone on Thursday to consolidate a “new stage” in the relationship between the two countries. The reconciliation will be marked “in the near future” by Sánchez and José Manuel Albares, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, visiting Rabat and as a result of this Albares cancelled the trip to the Moroccan capital that he was due to make today (Friday).

The government wants to put an end to the “unsustainable” situation which has been going on for the past year over the ‘Ghali case’ – the leader of the Frente Polisario was admitted to hospital in Logroño to be treated for Covid and Morocco’s response was the massive influx of migrants via Ceuta and Melilla – which fractured diplomatic relations. Things were so bad that King Mohamed immediately withdrew his Ambassador to Spain.

Sánchez had made an initial gesture in July by replacing the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the time, Arancha González Laya, who was said to have been responsible for that operation. Since then, with Albares heading the Ministry, a “discreet” diplomatic action resulted in the Moroccan ambassador returning to her post. That decision was due to Spain’s new position regarding the Western Sahara by openly embracing the plan for autonomy that Morocco had proposed in 2017 for its former colony.

Basis for better relations

In their first conversation since the thawing of diplomatic relations, Sánchez said that this new stage should be based on “transparency, constant communication, mutual respect, the fulfilment of agreements signed by both parties and the abstention from any unilateral action to avoid future crises”. He insists that the understanding with Morocco guarantees the “territorial integrity” of both countries, although Rabat has not clarified whether this means it is renouncing its claim on Ceuta and Melilla.

Mohamed VI responded by inviting Sánchez to visit the Moroccan capital, to “set in motion the road map to consolidate the new relationship”, although no date has yet been arranged for the visit. When the PM goes, it will be with the support of no political party except his own, the PSOE, over the move regarding the Sahara, which the government insists is not a U-turn or change of position.