Morocco and Spain deepen their normalisation of relations

Llega la esperada invitación de Mohamed VI a Pedro Sánchez

photo_camera PHOTO/PALACIO REAL DE MARRUECOS - File photo, Pedro Sanchez, is greeted by Morocco's King Mohammed VI before their lunch at the Royal Palace in Rabat, Morocco, Monday, Nov. 19, 2018.

It seems that the time has come for the complete normalisation of ties between two countries considered historical partners and neighbours, Morocco and Spain. After months of political clashes and differences of opinion, King Mohammed VI has invited the President of the Spanish Government, Pedro Sánchez, to the dinner to break the fast coinciding with Ramadan this Thursday, with the clear objective of certifying the normalisation of diplomatic relations between the Kingdom and the Spanish nation. 

On the occasion of the celebration of iftar this Thursday, the dinner that ends the mandatory fasting corresponding to Ramadan, Mohammed VI and Pedro Sánchez will meet following the invitation extended by the Alawite monarch, as reported by the media Rue20 and as confirmed by the Spanish Foreign Minister, José Manuel Albares.

"The iftar is the main celebration of the day during the Muslim holy month, so inviting a foreigner to participate is a sign of friendship", as reported by the media El País, which reported on the invitation made by Mohammed VI to Pedro Sánchez for him to come to Rabat and hold this High Level Meeting between the two leaders of both countries. 

This important event comes after Pedro Sánchez sent a letter to Mohammed VI in which he recognised the Moroccan proposal for broad autonomy for Western Sahara under Moroccan sovereignty as the "most serious, realistic and credible" proposal to settle the Saharawi dispute that has lasted for more than 40 years after the end of the Spanish colonial era in the territory. Mohamed VI expressed the great value for Morocco of this letter sent by the Spanish president, taking into account the great importance of the Saharawi question for the Alaouite kingdom.

Pedro Sánchez y Mohamed VI

There was speculation that Pedro Sánchez's visit to the Kingdom was imminent and will take place this Thursday following an invitation from the Moroccan monarch, something that changed diplomatic agendas because the Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, José Manuel Albares, was due to visit Morocco on 1 April, a trip that was postponed and included in Pedro Sánchez's presidential visit, once relations between the two nations had begun to normalise. 

According to the newspaper El País, the President of the Spanish Government had a meeting with the new national leader of the Partido Popular, Alberto Núñez Feijóo, on his agenda for Thursday as well, and it is therefore expected that Pedro Sánchez will travel to Morocco in the afternoon to meet Mohammed VI. 

The meeting between the King of Morocco and the Spanish President of the Government at the highest level would be the definitive staging of the return to normality in terms of diplomatic ties between the North African country and the European country. This important culmination comes after several gestures of rapprochement that have resulted from Spain's recognition of Morocco's plan for broad autonomy for Western Sahara under the Kingdom's sovereignty, which the Spanish government described as the most serious, realistic and credible. This political move was followed by other gestures such as the return of the Moroccan ambassador to Madrid.

Banderas de España y de Marruecos

The Polisario Front's other proposal for a referendum on independence for the Sahrawi people has little international support, including Algeria. 

The relationship between Spain and Morocco has been strained mainly by the reception of the leader of the Polisario Front, Brahim Ghali, on Spanish territory in April 2021 to be treated for a serious respiratory ailment in a hospital in Logroño. Morocco denounced the lack of information from Spain on this matter and the lack of cooperation from a country considered a partner and ally, and episodes followed that further strained relations, such as the massive entry of thousands of illegal immigrants into Ceuta from Moroccan territory and the withdrawal of the Kingdom's ambassador to Spain. 

The situation was gradually redirected thanks to previous gestures such as the appointment of José Manuel Albares as Spanish Foreign Minister to replace Arancha González Laya, who was marked by the Ghali case. José Manuel Albares applied a profile that was closer to Morocco. And also, the conciliatory messages launched by the King of Spain, Felipe VI, considering the good neighbourliness and cooperation of two allied nations such as Spain and Morocco.  

Underlying these Moroccan complaints was the fact that the Kingdom was missing Spanish support for Morocco's initiative to resolve the problem of Western Sahara, especially after major powers such as the United States, the United Arab Emirates, Germany and the United Kingdom had supported Morocco's autonomy formula for the Sahrawi territory.

Puesto fronterizo entre Marruecos y Mauritania en Guerguerat, situado en el Sáhara Occidental

The big push came from Donald Trump's last US administration, which in December 2020 supported Morocco's proposal for autonomy for Western Sahara under Moroccan sovereignty in exchange for the Kingdom establishing diplomatic relations with Israel in the wake of the Abraham Accords sealed in September 2020, under which several Arab countries such as the Emirates and Bahrain established diplomatic relations with the Israeli state under US auspices. Joe Biden's subsequent government has continued with this US support for Morocco's proposal, coinciding with the positive reception that the Moroccan initiative has received at the international level. The Alawi kingdom has always advocated negotiation between the opposing parties in order to reach a political solution under the postulates of the United Nations, understanding its autonomy proposal as the most realistic and conducive to social, political and economic progress in the region, and the proposal is becoming established in principle as the most internationally supported one.

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