A new stage in relations between Morocco and Spain

King Mohammed VI has declared that he wants to usher in a new era based on trust, transparency, mutual respect and commitment.
atalayar_Mohammed VI

 -  

After several months mired in a diplomatic crisis, Morocco and Spain are entering a 'new and unprecedented stage' in their relations, according to Morocco's King Mohammed VI. The monarch, through his speech on the occasion of the 68th anniversary of the Revolution of the King and the People, expressed his desire, with total "sincerity and confidence", to "continue working with the Government of Spain and with its President, His Excellency Mr. Pedro Sánchez". Nevertheless, Mohammed VI admits to having gone through "an unprecedented crisis that has shaken mutual trust and raised many questions about its destiny". To overcome these challenges, the Alawi king advocates relations based on "trust, transparency, mutual respect and honouring commitments". "Our objective was not only to get out of this crisis, but to make it an opportunity to review the foundations and determinants that govern these relations," he said. In addition to alluding to Spain during the speech, the monarch also sent a message to Emmanuel Macron, with whom "ties of friendship and mutual consideration" unite. 

The Spanish president, Pedro Sánchez, welcomed the Moroccan king's words with gratitude. "I believe that every crisis also creates opportunities, and I believe that this is a great opportunity to redefine these relations, the pillars on which they are based, and in this sense I can only thank and acknowledge the words of the King of Morocco," Sánchez declared. The president recalled that Morocco "is a strategic ally of both Spain and the European Union as a whole". On the issue of the repatriation of unaccompanied minors who arrived in Ceuta in May, Sánchez proposed "also responding to the complex balance of coexistence" in the autonomous city in collaboration with Rabat.

atalayar_españa-marruecos
AFP/FADEL SENNA - The Prime Minister of Morocco, Saad Eddine el-Othmani, and the Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez

Charles Michel, President of the European Council, also welcomed Morocco's decision to extend a hand to Spain to overcome the crisis. "Morocco is a partner of Spain and of the European Union and, in fact, we want to be able to remain committed to deepening this partnership, which is fundamental between Morocco and the European Union", Michel stressed. The European leader also highlighted the bilateral partnership not only in migration, but also in economic development and cooperation. "We believe that dialogue, partnership and engagement are useful for both parties," he added.

The crisis between Rabat and Madrid began at the end of April, when the Spanish government allowed Polisario Front leader Brahim Ghali to enter the country. The Sahrawi's admission to a hospital in Logroño provoked criticism from Morocco, as Spain did not inform its neighbour about the events. After a series of statements by the Moroccan government attacking Spain for its actions, the crisis worsened with the entry of more than 10,000 migrants from Morocco into Ceuta.

Since then, other countries and institutions such as the European Parliament and the Arab Parliament have intervened and mediated in the crisis, while Spanish Sahrawi organisations backed Morocco and criticised Madrid for hosting Ghali, who is accused of crimes against humanity.

atalayar_crisis ceuta
AP/JAVIER FERGO - A Moroccan man is detained by Spanish Army soldiers at the border between Morocco and Spain, in the Spanish enclave of Ceuta.

The replacement of Arancha González Laya as foreign minister by José Manuel Albares was a turning point in the diplomatic crisis between Rabat and Madrid. The new head of Spanish diplomacy, shortly after taking the oath of office, stressed that it was necessary to "strengthen relations with Morocco", a country he considered a "neighbour and friend to the south". "It is not a question of having strident headlines, but of strengthening the relationship between Spain and Morocco, which I am sure it also wants to have with us. A true strategic relationship of friendship", Albares declared.

atalayar_albares-sanchez

Mohammed VI also used the speech to denounce a campaign against Morocco in the wake of the Pegasus case. "By creating unfounded justifications and accusing our national institutions of not respecting rights and freedoms, they want us to be like them," the monarch said. "They organised a wide-ranging campaign aimed at defacing the image of our institutions and security, in an attempt to influence their strength and their effectiveness in preserving Morocco's security and stability," he added. Several international media have accused Rabat of using the Israeli spying programme against relevant figures such as politicians and journalists. Morocco has repeatedly denied these claims and has even initiated legal proceedings against media outlets and organisations.