In a message addressed to King Mohammed VI on March 18, the head of the Spanish government expressed for the first time Spain's support for the autonomy plan proposed by Morocco in 2007 for the Moroccan Sahara, a message that ended the diplomatic crisis between the two kingdoms.
On Friday March 18th, the head of the Spanish government Pedro Sánchez sent a message to King Mohammed VI announcing, for the first time, Madrid's support for the autonomy plan proposed by Morocco for the Moroccan Sahara in 2007: “Spain considers the Moroccan autonomy initiative as the most serious, realistic and credible basis for resolving the dispute,” the message said.
In his letter to the Moroccan King Mohammed VI, Pedro Sánchez said that “Spain considers the Moroccan autonomy initiative as the most serious basis”. Morocco and Spain have just closed the parenthesis of an unprecedented crisis which has greatly altered relations between the two Kingdoms and raised several questions about their future.
The President of the Spanish government, Pedro Sánchez assures that Spain's objective is to build a new relationship, based on transparency, permanent communication and mutual respect. These positive positions and constructive commitments by Spain on the Moroccan Sahara issue were highly appreciated by the Kingdom which, through the Moroccan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, African Cooperation and Moroccans Living Abroad.
Madrid position is an unprecedented change
Madrid's new position is an important change according to several Spanish experts, while Spain had so far advocated neutrality between Rabat and the Polisario. As a former colonizer of this part of Morocco, the Iberian kingdom had always been one of the main European supporters of the separatist front.
The major diplomatic crisis between Madrid and Rabat occurred in April 2021, right after Spain welcomed, under a false identity, the leader of so-called Polisario, Brahim Ghali.
For its part, Spain accused Morocco of being behind the largest crossing of migrants during May of 2021 in the city of Ceuta. This is the record arrival of more than 8,000 migrants in one day in the Spanish enclave, taking advantage of a relaxation of border surveillance on the Moroccan side. In May 2021, Morocco recalled its ambassador to Madrid, Karima Benyaich.
Impact of Sánchez's message on the kingdoms’ relations
Sánchez's message ended an unprecedented diplomatic crisis between the two neighboring kingdoms. Moroccan-Spanish relations have resumed their normal course, illustrated by the return to Madrid of the Moroccan ambassador, Karima Benyaich. After the change of the Spanish position, King Mohammed VI had a telephone conversation with the President of the Spanish Government, H.E. Mr. Pedro Sánchez.
The press release of the Moroccan royal cabinet said that during the telephonic conversation the King reiterated His High appreciation for the content of the message. The communiqué said that this letter is in accordance with the spirit of the Speech of His Majesty King Mohammed VI on August 20, 2021 and responds to the king’s call to start a new stage of relations between the two countries.
Morocco welcomed the position and Algeria Opposed the content
The Moroccan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, African Cooperation and Moroccans Residing Abroad welcomed this change in the Spanish position. "The Kingdom of Morocco highly appreciates Spain's positive positions and constructive commitments regarding the Moroccan Sahara issue," the statement said.
The ministry of Nasser Bourita also announced the visit of the Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, José Manuel Albares to Rabat at the end of March and before the month of Ramadan. A visit to Morocco by the Spanish Prime Minister will also be scheduled later, the ministry concluded.
Algiers opposed the content of the message addressed to the king, denouncing a “sudden reversal” of the Spanish position on the Moroccan Sahara issue. Thus, the Algerian diplomacy announced the recall for consultations of its ambassador accredited to Madrid. “Very surprised by the declarations of the highest Spanish authorities relating to the Sahara issue, the Algerian authorities, surprised by this sudden reversal of the position of the former power administering the Sahara, have decided to recall its ambassador to Madrid for consultations with immediate effect,” it had announced.
In response to accusations from Algerian diplomacy, the Spanish government assured that it had “warned Algeria in advance of its support for the autonomy plan”.
Sanchez relations with Morocco, a state affair that requires a state policy
Relations with Morocco, a "neighbor and a strategic partner", constitute a "matter of State which requires a State policy", declared the President of the Spanish government, Pedro Sanchez. "The government is firmly determined to open a new stage in relations between the two countries, with a clear and ambitious roadmap," said Mr. Sanchez before the Spanish Congress of Deputies.
Morocco is "a neighbor and an indispensable strategic partner", he assured, adding that "throughout history, the two countries have forged human ties, agreements and relations which have forged common interests".
Thus, Mr. Sanchez argued that Spain's desire is to establish with Morocco "relations that correspond to two neighboring countries of strategic importance in the areas of migration control, economic and trade relations and the fight against terrorism". By opening a new page with Morocco, "we have taken the path of realpolitik to meet the challenges of the state, particularly in terms of stability, prosperity and security", concluded Mr. Sanchez.
Morocco king invited Spanish government head to visit Rabat
The President of the Spanish Government, Pedro Sanchez, had a working visit to Rabat, at the invitation of King Mohammed VI. His majesty the king and the Spanish head of government have had official talks with the head of the Spanish government.
At the end of his visit, Morocco and Spain had released a joint statement in which they give emphasis of their strategic importance of the ties between the two kingdoms for the aspirations of peace, security and prosperity. And the two sides have agreed to build a new stage in their bilateral relations.
The President of the Spanish Government visit to Rabat is very important to define the priorities of the high level meeting that will be held during the current year.
The joint declarations released at the end of Sanchez visit said that Spain is recognizing the importance of Sahara to Morocco and the Morocco efforts to end this feigned conflict. And Spain considers the Moroccan autonomy plan as the basis that is most serious, realistic and credible to end this dispute.
At the social level, the two parties have agreed to normalize the movement of people and goods in an ordered way, and they come to an agreement to restore the maritime links and prepare the operation of “Marhaba” that facilitates the coming of Moroccan living abroad to Morocco during the summer.
The joint declaration has noted that the Spanish Moroccan group of migration will meet soon in order to restart cooperation in the field of migration. Then, they will reactivate cooperation in all sectors of common interest economically.