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Sanchez stages reunion with Morocco and announces reopening of borders

Spanish Prime Minister explains the joint declaration that sets out the keys to the new stage in bilateral relations
Pedro Sánchez

PHOTO/LA MONCLOA  -   The Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, during his appearance in Rabat where he announced the start of a new stage in bilateral relations between Spain and Morocco

"Today is an important day for Spain and Morocco". It was with these words that the Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, began his speech from the Guest Palace in Rabat to explain the joint document issued by Spain and Morocco after his trip to the Moroccan capital to stage the new stage in bilateral relations after months of diplomatic crisis. A crisis resolved.

Sánchez revealed part of the content included in the joint declaration, emphasising the "historic and necessary moment for both countries" in which this new momentum in Spanish-Moroccan relations is taking place. "The roadmap is long-lasting and ambitious," the Prime Minister said of a document that seals future agreements on economic, commercial, energy, industrial and cultural matters.

"The bilateral relationship is strategic", Sánchez explained, because Spain and Morocco "not only share geographical proximity, but also our will to walk together". A premise on which work will be done to restore "full normality" in the circulation of goods and merchandise in the autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla in an "orderly manner, including the appropriate customs and people control mechanisms on land and at sea".

Passenger maritime connections between the two countries will also be reactivated "immediately and gradually until all frequencies are opened", without specifying dates. In this regard, preparations will be made to relaunch the Strait Crossing/Marhaba operation, cancelled for the first time in 2020 on the occasion of COVID-19 and suspended for the second time in June 2021.

Madrid and Rabat will organise the creation of joint working groups, beyond the one created 'ad hoc' to address migration issues, also reinforced in the framework of the agreement, with the aim of strengthening cooperation in various areas. A relationship for the 21st century," Sánchez insisted, "a true partnership".

A high-level meeting between the two governments is also scheduled to be held before the end of 2022 to discuss these issues in greater depth.

Sánchez acknowledged the "constructive" role of King Mohammed VI. "Throughout these months we have found in him a person who has been interested from the very first moment in reaching a good agreement", the Spanish Prime Minister expressed with gratitude. He extended his gratitude to the work of the Moroccan Foreign Minister, Nasser Bourita, who has been in close contact with his Spanish counterpart, José Manuel Albares, over the last few months.

"There is no room for unilateral acts", said Sánchez, who defended the territorial integrity of Spain - and Morocco - in an agreement that does not, at least explicitly, contemplate this commitment. "Spain's national sovereignty is beyond any doubt, including Ceuta and Melilla", the head of the Spanish Government responded emphatically at the end of the appearance.

In what was perhaps the most critical point of his speech, Sánchez succinctly explained the reactivation of the joint working group that worked in the past on the delimitation of maritime spaces on the Atlantic coast, aimed at redefining the territorial waters of Spain and Morocco. The discussions will be resumed "in good faith within the framework of the United Nations". The same will be done with the management of airspace.

Minutes before Sánchez's institutional declaration, Spain and Morocco issued a joint declaration marking the beginning of a new stage in their diplomatic ties. "Aware of the magnitude and strategic importance of the ties that unite them and of the legitimate aspirations for peace, security and prosperity of the two peoples, they begin today the construction of a new stage in their bilateral relationship," reads the communiqué, which outlines the commitments formalised by the parties.

One of the highlights is Spain's recognition "of the importance of the Western Sahara issue for Morocco", as well as the efforts of the Alaouite Kingdom "within the framework of the United Nations to find a mutually acceptable solution". As Sánchez expressed in his letter to King Mohammed VI, Spain considers the Moroccan autonomy initiative, presented in 2007, as the most serious, realistic and credible basis for resolving this dispute.

"His Majesty King Mohamed VI and the Prime Minister of Spain, His Excellency Mr Pedro Sánchez, will appoint a committee responsible for the implementation of this declaration within three months," concludes a historic communiqué that marks the beginning of a new and definitive stage between Spain and Morocco.

Joint statement:

"NEW STAGE OF THE PARTNERSHIP BETWEEN SPAIN AND MOROCCO".

At the invitation of His Majesty King Mohammed VI, the Prime Minister of Spain, H.E. Mr. Pedro Sánchez, paid an official visit to the Kingdom of Morocco on 7 April 2022.

During this visit, His Majesty the King and H.E. the Prime Minister discussed bilateral relations in depth.

At the end of the talks, the following statement was adopted:

The letter addressed by the Primer Minister of Spain, H.E. Mr. Pedro Sánchez, to His Majesty King Mohammed VI on 14 March 2022, as well as the telephone conversation between the Sovereign and the Primer Minister of Spain on 31 March, have opened a new page in the relations between the Kingdom of Spain and the Kingdom of Morocco.

Spain and Morocco, aware of the magnitude and strategic importance of the ties that unite them and of the legitimate aspirations for peace, security and prosperity of the two peoples, are today beginning to build a new stage in their bilateral relations.

Based on the principles of transparency, permanent dialogue, mutual respect and respect and implementation of the commitments and agreements signed by both parties, this new stage responds to the call of His Majesty King Mohammed VI, to "inaugurate an unprecedented stage in the relations between the two countries", and of His Majesty King Felipe VI to "walk together to materialise a new relationship". It also corresponds to the will of the Prime Minister of Spain, Pedro Sánchez, to "build a relationship on more solid foundations". In this spirit, the two countries intend to establish a lasting and ambitious roadmap.

The Spanish Prime Minister's visit to Morocco is an important opportunity to consolidate this roadmap and to define the priorities for the next High Level Meeting (HLM), which should take place before the end of this year.

On this basis, the new roadmap includes the following elements:

1. Spain recognises the importance of the Western Sahara issue for Morocco, as well as Morocco's serious and credible efforts within the framework of the United Nations to find a mutually acceptable solution. In this regard, Spain considers the Moroccan autonomy initiative, presented in 2007, as the most serious, realistic and credible basis for resolving this dispute.

2. Issues of common interest will be dealt with in a spirit of trust, through consultation, without resorting to unilateral acts or faits accomplis.

3. Full normalisation of the movement of people and goods will be restored in an orderly manner, including appropriate land and maritime customs and people control arrangements.

4. Passenger maritime connections between the two countries will be re-established immediately and gradually until the opening of all frequencies.

5. Preparations for Operation Crossing the Strait/Marhaba will be launched with the same approach.

6. The working group on the delimitation of maritime spaces on the Atlantic seaboard will be reactivated, with the aim of achieving concrete progress.

7. Discussions on airspace management will be launched.

8. Cooperation in the field of migration will be relaunched and strengthened. The Spanish-Moroccan Permanent Group on Migration will meet in the near future.

9. Coordination within the framework of the respective presidencies of the Rabat process, during the period 2022-2023, will be carried out in such a way as to highlight the exemplary cooperation between the two countries in this field, for the benefit of a global and balanced approach to the migratory phenomenon.

10. Sectoral cooperation will be reactivated in all areas of common interest: economic, commercial, energy, industrial and cultural, among others.

11. The facilitation of economic exchanges and links between the two countries will be the subject of a forthcoming meeting.

12. The field of education, vocational training and higher education will be a priority in this new phase. A specific working group will be set up for this purpose.

13. Cultural cooperation will be strengthened. A sectoral working group will be set up in the field of Culture and Sport. A new impetus will be given to the Board of Trustees of the Three Cultures Foundation.

14. The activity reports of the meetings and Working Groups established or reactivated will be submitted to the High Level Meeting.

15. The two countries will start discussions on updating the 1991 Treaty of Good Neighbourliness, Friendship and Cooperation, on the basis of the principles, parameters and priorities that should guide their bilateral relations in the years to come.

16. His Majesty King Mohammed VI and the Prime Minister of Spain, His Excellency Mr. Pedro Sanchez, will appoint a committee responsible for the implementation of this declaration within three months.

Done at Rabat, 7 April 2022