Spain king calls for 'new start' with Morocco after months of tension

Spain king calls for 'new start' with Morocco after months of tension
2 min read
18 January, 2022
Spain vows to restore the ruptured diplomatic ties with Morocco.
Spain's King calls on Morocco to build stronger ties after months of conflict (getty)

Spain's king said he wants relations with Morocco restored after a nine-month disruption over the Western Sahara conflict and immigration issues.

King Felipe VI on Monday chaired an annual reception to honour members of the diplomatic corps accredited in Spain.

The ceremony was marked by the absence of the Moroccan ambassador, Karima Benyaich, recalled by Rabat on 18 May 2021 for "consultations". 

Morocco was still mentioned in the royal speech, with the king calling for a new start with Rabat.

"With Morocco, our respective governments have agreed to jointly redefine a relationship for the 21st century, based on stronger and more solid pillars," said King Felipe VI.

"Now the two nations must walk together to begin to make this new relationship a reality. It is a question of finding solutions to the problems which concern our peoples."

Spain's Foreign Affairs Minister Jose Manuel Albares said in October that Madrid was determined to establish "stronger" diplomatic relations with Morocco.

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Anger had erupted in April over Madrid's decision to admit the leader of the Algerian-backed Polisario Front, Brahim Ghali, for hospital treatment in Spain last year.

Morocco, which has fought a war with the separatist group seeking an independent state in the Western Sahara region, responded by recalling its ambassador to Spain.

Following the dispute with Madrid, an immigration crisis has erupted on Spanish-Moroccan borders, with 6,000 migrants and refugees reaching Spain's Ceuta enclave.

Spanish authorities accused Morocco of turning a blind eye and weaponising migrants to win the political stalemate.

Ahmed Noureddin, a political scientist, told The New Arab that the Spanish king's call for a new relationship requires "discussing all thorny issues, to avoid the mines that tend to explode from time to time in the relations between the two countries".

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One of those issues is the Western Sahara conflict.

Since the US formally recognised Morocco's sovereignty over the territory, Rabat is piling pressure on Madrid to follow Washington's lead and change its policy on Western Sahara.

“Spain is required to correct its historical error, supports the Moroccan position, and recognizes the Moroccan sovereignty over Sahara, because, as a former colonial power, it was the main reason for the emergence of this problem,” said Mr. Noureddine

Noureddin said the other issues between Spain and Morocco are the Ceuta and Melilla enclaves, the demand for Madrid to apologise for using chemicals against Moroccan civilians in the colonial-era Rif War, and defining the maritime borders between the two countries.