The meeting celebrates, according to Bourita, a "new phase in relations" which comes after the Spanish government's support for the Moroccan autonomy plan for the Sahara and after the announcement of the reopening of customs in Melilla

Bourita anuncia una reunión de alto nivel entre Marruecos y España a comienzos de 2023

PHOTO/FILE - Nasser Bourita, Minister of Foreign Affairs, African Cooperation and Moroccan Expatriates of Morocco

The Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nasser Bourita, announced on Tuesday that a high-level meeting would be held between Rabat and Madrid at the beginning of 2023. 

"The High Level Meeting (RAN) is an important moment to celebrate the new phase of relations between Spain and Morocco," Bourita said during an appearance alongside the Vice-President of the European Commission for the Green Pact, Frans Timmermans. "It will be an important moment that reflects the positive spirit [that has guided diplomatic normalisation between the two countries in recent months] oriented towards respect for commitments," he added. 


The news comes in the context of the two powers' efforts to restore Spanish-Moroccan relations, which were severely damaged after the controversial reception of Brahim Gali, leader of the Sahrawi Polisario Front group, in April 2021. This has been influenced by the Spanish government's recognition of Rabat's proposal for autonomy for the Sahrawi territories, which it described on 18 March this year as 'the most serious, credible and realistic basis' for resolving the conflict. 

"We appreciate the clear and responsible position of Spain", thanked the Alaouite monarch, Mohamed VI during his speech on the 69th anniversary of the Revolution of the King and the People, where he also took the opportunity to assure that the American move - made by Donald Trump in 2020 - in favour of the autonomy plan "has made it easier for many other countries of great weight to express their support for the initiative". 


The reopening of the Melilla customs office (unilaterally closed in 2018) and plans to create a customs office in Ceuta has similarly become another avenue for reconciliation between the two powers in recent months. The announcement of 'the full normalisation of the movement of people and goods [...], including appropriate customs and people control mechanisms, both on land and at sea', included in a joint declaration by the Alawi head of state and the Spanish head of government on 7 April 2022, was a good example of this. 

Thus, the meeting between the Spanish Foreign Minister, José Manuel Albares, and his Moroccan counterpart, Nasser Bourita, on 21 September in New York, on the sidelines of the 77th plenary session of the UN General Assembly, set a definitive date for the reopening. January 2023. 


Morocco will comply with what was agreed in the declaration of 7 April 2022, Bourita promised in New York, and both countries "will work for a return to normality in an effective manner", hoping that "the necessary arrangements" will be in place "from the beginning of the year". 

Now, alongside European diplomat Frans Timmermans, Bourita said that "all the working groups have been activated and many elements have been put in place. All of the commitments in the declaration will be respected and implemented", referring to the declaration signed by Mohamed VI and Pedro Sánchez. "This declaration has specified the principles that will govern this new phase, which will define the priorities and make explicit the positions of both countries on the issues of interest". 

"The declaration has established a new roadmap, and we have worked hard to implement it," he added.


The high-level meeting now scheduled for early 2023 seems to be along these lines. After the postponement of the December 2020 and February 2021 meetings due to the epidemiological situation and the diplomatic crisis, the 2023 meeting is presented as a new opportunity for the new roadmap. "We will have enough time to prepare the parliamentary and business forums, and to mobilise the actors," Bourita concluded.