After a year of great diplomatic strife, Spain and Morocco normalized their relations on Friday, March 18, thanks to a gesture of support long demanded by Rabat in Madrid on the very sensitive issue of Western Sahara. A turn from Madrid that surprised the Spanish political class. The Polisario Front, for its part, expresses its “astonishment”.
The Saharan separatist front Polisario expressed its “astonishment” on Saturday at noon over the Spanish government’s position to support the Moroccan position in Western Sahara, according to a press release sent to AFP.
An exchange of press releases between Rabat and Madrid, last Friday, supported the ongoing warming between the two capitals and the radical change of tone in Madrid on the issue of Western Sahara. “Today we are entering a new stage in our relationship with Morocco based on mutual respect, respect for agreements, the absence of unilateral action and transparency and permanent communication,” the Spanish government wrote in a press release.
This announcement comes after the publication of a press release from the Moroccan Royal Palace which reports a statement from the Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez which according to Rabat indicates that the Moroccan plan for “autonomy” for Western Sahara is “the more serious, realistic and credible for Western Sahara”. the resolution of the dispute “.
Later in the day, the head of the Spanish diplomacy José Manuel Albares returned to the matter, before the press in Barcelona, and in turn explained that “Spain considers the autonomy initiative presented in 2007 (by Morocco) to be the most serious, realistic and credible basis for the solution to this dispute ”between Rabat and the separatists of the Polisario Front.
Madrid’s recognition of the Moroccan project to make Western Sahara a provincial autonomy is a major change, emphasizes our correspondent in Madrid, Francois Musseau. So far, Spain has supported a UN resolution calling for a referendum on self-determination for this vast territory between Morocco and Mauritania, some of which is in the hands of the separatist Polisario Front.
Madrid “gave in” according to Ignacio CembreroSom part of normalization of relations between the two countriesA visit by Pedro Sanchez to Morocco, whose date has not been communicated, is planned while the head of Spanish diplomacy, José Manuel Albares, will travel to Rabat “before the end of the month”, the Spanish government said in a statement.
For Ignacio Cembrero, a Spanish journalist specializing in relations between the two countries, “the Spanish government gave in to Morocco’s main demands” asking it to “support its proposal for autonomy” for Western Sahara.
“It is an important change” because “Morocco requires this to be made public” but “the Spanish authorities have always helped Morocco (in this file) in recent years”, he nuances.
Brahim Ghali, leader of the Polisario Front, point of contention The conflict in Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony considered by the UN as a “non-autonomous territory”, has pitted Morocco against the Sahrawi separatists from the Polisario Front, with the support of Algiers, for decades Rabat, who controls almost 80% of this territory, proposes an autonomy plan under its sovereignty while the Polisario calls for a referendum on self-determination, planned when a ceasefire was signed in 1991, but which was never realized.
The great diplomatic quarrel between Madrid and Rabat was caused in April 2021 by the reception in Spain, to be treated there for Covid, by the leader of the Polisario Front, Brahim Ghali, sworn enemy of Rabat.It resulted in May last year in a massive arrival of migrants of Moroccan origin to the Spanish enclave of Ceutaon the northern coast of Morocco, and benefits from a “relaxation” of border surveillance on the Moroccan side.
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A political shock in Spain In this new direction, the radical left in Podemos sees outrageous support for “the colonial occupation of Morocco in Western Sahara”. The popular party, on the right, takes offense at not being warned and confirms that Madrid went to bed in front of Rabat.
For many analysts, this change of direction is an effect of the need for stability in the war in Ukraine, Spain and Europe in the south. The problem could have been Algeria, favorable to Western Sahara’s independence. But Algiers assured that this turnaround would not affect its gas supplies to Spain.
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(and with AFP)