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Morocco and Spain set the course for further deepening bilateral relations

The Moroccan and Spanish Foreign Ministers held a meeting in Marrakech prior to the meeting of the global coalition against Daesh, which Rabat is hosting today in the presence of the US Secretary of State
Nasser Bourita, Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs, and José Manuel Albares, Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs

PHOTO/TWITTER/JOSÉ MANUEL ALBARES/MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS SPAIN  -   Nasser Bourita, Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs, and José Manuel Albares, Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs

Nasser Bourita and José Manuel Albares, the Moroccan and Spanish Foreign Ministers respectively, met in Marrakech, maintaining the trend of good harmony that now exists between the North African and European nations after diplomatic ties between the two were restored with Spain's recognition of the Moroccan proposal on Western Sahara as the "most serious, credible and realistic". 

Once again, the good relationship between the two countries after the latest political rapprochement was highlighted, and José Manuel Albares assured that Spain and Morocco would "further deepen their relations" in the new stage opened between the two countries, in which there will be no unilateral acts, but rather consultation at all times, as reported by the Europa Press agency. 

In view of this declaration of intent, Nasser Bourita also claimed that "Spain can count on Morocco as a reliable, serious and responsible partner". The Moroccan minister insisted on the Alawi kingdom's commitment to maintaining a relationship with Spain based on "consultation and coordination, not unilateral actions". 

Nasser Bourita, ministro de Asuntos Exteriores de Marruecos, y José Manuel Albares, ministro de Asuntos Exteriores de España
PHOTO/TWITTER/JOSÉ MANUEL ALBARES/MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS SPAIN - Nasser Bourita, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Morocco, and José Manuel Albares, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Spain

The message was clear: from now on, after recovering a solid diplomatic relationship, which is necessary between two neighbouring countries considered allies and partners in certain areas, both Morocco and Spain are now marking out a path in which unilateral acts, those in which the other party is not consulted, will be avoided, so now the new stage is one of cooperation and joint work at all levels. This message is very important because both states have strong common interests in different areas such as foreign policy, migration and even the fight against terrorism, although in this last aspect there has practically always been good joint work despite everything.

Albares and Bourita appeared before the media in a press conference without questions in Marrakech, before participating in the next meeting of the global coalition against Daesh that takes place this Wednesday in Rabat, and took stock of the road map that was presented after the visit on 7 April of the President of the Spanish Government, Pedro Sánchez, to the Moroccan capital following the invitation extended by King Mohamed VI in the middle of Ramadan as an example of good neighbourliness and friendship after having recovered relations between the two nations. 

This visit marked the recovery of good relations between the two countries after Spain recognised the Moroccan formula of broad autonomy for Western Sahara under the sovereignty of the Alaouite kingdom as the "most serious, credible and realistic" way of resolving the Sahrawi conflict that has lasted more than four decades, all within the framework of the United Nations resolutions. This is in contrast to the proposal of the rival Polisario Front to hold a referendum on independence among the Sahrawi population, which has less support at the international level. 

Nasser Bourita, ministro de Asuntos Exteriores de Marruecos, y José Manuel Albares, ministro de Asuntos Exteriores de España
PHOTO/TWITTER/JOSÉ MANUEL ALBARES/MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS SPAIN - Nasser Bourita, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Morocco, and José Manuel Albares, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Spain

"We can see that there is great harmony between the two countries on issues that affect our relationship," Albares said. "We are in agreement on raising and deepening our bilateral relationship even more," added the Spanish Foreign Minister, saying that the next High Level Meeting to be held before the end of the year will mean a "qualitative leap" in the diplomatic ties between the two countries. 

Nasser Bourita and José Manuel Albares once again highlighted the good relations that now exist between Morocco and Spain after a stormy period that marked a diplomatic crisis between the two countries, which was exacerbated by the reception in Spain last year of Brahim Ghali, leader of the Polisario Front, to be treated for a respiratory ailment in a hospital in Logroño. 

The Alawi kingdom considered that it was not properly informed and that a country considered a partner like Spain did not cooperate in this situation. This episode was followed by others, such as the irregular entry of thousands of immigrants through the Ceuta border and the withdrawal of the Moroccan ambassador from Madrid. In an attempt to redirect the situation, there were gestures of rapprochement with Morocco by the King of Spain, Felipe VI, and the appointment of José Manuel Albares as Spain's Foreign Minister to replace Arancha González Laya, who had been negatively affected by the Ghali case. 

Underlying all this was the fact that Morocco lacked Spain's support on the Western Sahara issue; and it is precisely after Spain's recognition of Morocco's proposal on the Sahrawi territory that this new phase of good relations between Morocco and Spain has been opened and consolidated.

Nasser Bourita, ministro de Asuntos Exteriores de Marruecos, y José Manuel Albares, ministro de Asuntos Exteriores de España
PHOTO/TWITTER/JOSÉ MANUEL ALBARES/MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS SPAIN - Nasser Bourita, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Morocco, and José Manuel Albares, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Spain

In addition to the purely political issue, the Spanish and Moroccan Foreign Affairs Ministers agreed to continue working on the coordination of working groups in different areas to control irregular migratory flows. And it was announced that there will be a meeting in June to delimit the borders of territorial waters on the Atlantic side and to manage airspace. 

"We have noticed a significant decrease in the number of irregular immigrants arriving in Spain", said Albares, who acknowledged the "extraordinary work" carried out by the security forces of both countries. 

This comes after the normalisation of air and sea connections and after the first meeting that served to establish the basis for what will be Operation Marhaba 2022, which allows a fluid flow of all those Moroccans returning from mainly European destinations to enjoy the summer holidays in Morocco or the North African area. 

Up to 32 ferries have been fixed on all the shipping lines connecting Moroccan ports with Spanish, French and Italian destinations, as confirmed last weekend by the Moroccan Ministry of Transport and Logistics. These ships offer a capacity for around 480,000 passengers and some 123,000 cars within a schedule of 571 weekly trips, as indicated in an official statement by the Ministry of the Kingdom, thus showing that everything is planned to carry out this Operation Crossing the Strait of Gibraltar. 

As for the reopening of borders in Ceuta and Melilla, an important point in the ties between the two countries and even more so after the restrictions that have been in place due to the coronavirus pandemic, the head of Spanish diplomacy indicated that the two countries have "continued to make progress in normalising the passage of goods and people through customs" in the two autonomous cities, without announcing an exact date, as reported by the Europa Press agency.