Morocco and Spain pursue close security cooperation

Rabat hosted a high-level meeting between senior security and counter-terrorism officials from both countries

PHOTO/FILE  -   Abdellatif Hammouchi and Francisco Pardo Piqueras

Security and counter-terrorism cooperation between Morocco and Spain continues to be as close as ever. The Alawi kingdom and the Spanish nation continue to cooperate closely in security matters, and an example of this was the latest meeting in Rabat between high-ranking security officials from both countries.  

Abdellatif Hammouchi, Director General of National Security and Territorial Surveillance of Morocco, and Francisco Pardo Piqueras, Director General of the Spanish National Police Force, met in the Kingdom's capital, as reported in an official communiqué from the Kingdom.

This meeting was held on Wednesday on the occasion of the visit to the North African country of Francisco Pardo Piqueras at the head of a high-level Spanish security delegation made up of Eugenio Pereiro Blanco, Commissioner General of Intelligence, Rafael Pérez Pérez, Commissioner General of Judicial Police, Juan Enrique Taborda Álvarez, Commissioner General of Aliens and Borders, Alicia Malo Sánchez, head of the Directorate of International Security Cooperation, and Francisco Jesús Ramírez Jara, advisor to the Directorate General of the Spanish National Police.

PHOTO/FILE - Meeting of the delegations headed by Abdellatif Hammouchi and Francisco Pardo Piqueras

The aim of this meeting was to strengthen bilateral ties and joint cooperation in security matters between Morocco and Spain in order to continue to make progress in protection against various threats and in the fight against terrorism, one of the basic pillars of the policy of both nations. The two countries have been cooperating for many years in this area on the basis of trust and joint work in pursuit of a common objective, which is to protect their own populations and prevent attacks and crimes of all kinds. 

The two sides exchanged experiences and information on the challenges in the fight against terrorism and organised crime, as indicated in the official note issued by the Kingdom. 

The two working groups mainly addressed the major threat posed by the various extremist terrorist groups currently in existence and the organised crime networks operating in the Western Mediterranean, as well as ways of dealing with criminal activities linked to trafficking in human beings and international trafficking in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances; they also discussed strengthening mechanisms and channels for the exchange of operational data related to security issues, as officially reported.

AFP/FADEL SENNA - A member of the Moroccan special forces guard stands outside the building of the Central Bureau of Judicial Investigation (BCIJ)

Discussions also focused on strengthening the partnership of national institutions to enhance security at border crossings and the work of forensic police. The improvement of police training programmes in various disciplines, such as special intervention forces and high security operations, was also discussed. 

This new meeting, with Abdellatif Hammouchi and Francisco Pardo Piqueras at the head, shows the good dynamics of bilateral work between the Moroccan Gendarmerie and the Spanish Police within the framework of the good diplomatic relations that now exist between the two countries, enhanced thanks to the latest rapprochement brought about by the recognition by the Spanish Government of Pedro Sánchez of the Moroccan proposal of broad autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty for Western Sahara as the "most credible, serious and realistic" to resolve the Saharawi conflict. A formula that has received a great deal of international support, especially after Donald Trump's US administration recognised the Moroccan sovereignty of the Sahara in exchange for the Alawi kingdom establishing strong relations with Israel, following in the wake of the Abraham Accords sealed in September 2020 by which several Arab countries such as the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain established diplomatic ties with the Israeli state under US mediation in order to promote development and peace in the Middle East and to confront common enemies such as the Islamic Republic of Iran. All of this is in contrast to the other proposal for a referendum on independence for the Sahrawi people defended by the Polisario Front, which has less international support, including that of Algeria, Morocco's great political rival in the Maghreb. 

This step taken by the Spanish government was a boost to diplomatic relations between the two neighbouring countries after a stormy period in which there was a great deal of estrangement due to differences that were difficult to resolve. The main trigger for this past bad situation was the presence of Brahim Ghali, leader of the Polisario Front, in Spain to be treated in a hospital in Logroño for a respiratory ailment in April 2021. Morocco complained that it had not been properly informed by a country considered an ally and that it did not receive the necessary Spanish cooperation. This was followed by other complicated episodes such as the entry of tens of thousands of illegal immigrants through the Ceuta border and the withdrawal of the Moroccan ambassador from Madrid. 

PHOTO/FILE - Spanish security forces

Spain tried to redirect the situation with gestures of rapprochement, such as those made by King Felipe VI, and with decisions such as the appointment of José Manuel Albares as Minister of Foreign Affairs to replace Arancha González Laya, who was marked by the Ghali case. 

After these moves came the letter that the Spanish President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, sent to King Mohammed VI in March of this year, in which he supported Morocco's initiative on Western Sahara, and the Kingdom resumed full diplomatic relations with Spain, with the Moroccan monarch inviting the Spanish head of government to receive him in Rabat. At that meeting, the road map was drawn up for the current relationship between the North African country and Spain, a relationship of full cooperation and political understanding between two nations that are historically considered neighbours and allies. 

In any case, despite the disagreements that have taken place, cooperation in security matters and the fight against terrorism and organised crime has always been essential between Spain and Morocco, given the importance of national protection and preventing the proliferation of various extremist and criminal activities. Issues such as the pursuit of jihadist terrorist groups and elements and organised crime gangs is an issue of such importance that it cannot depend on political relations, something that has always been clear to both nations.