Sánchez reaffirms Spain's change of position on the Sahara issue before King Mohammed VI

Marruecos habla de nueva etapa con respeto mutuo y consultas permanentes

photo_camera PHOTO/LA MONCLOA - King Mohammed VI receives the President of the Spanish Government, Pedro Sánchez, at the Royal Palace

King Mohammed VI of Morocco received the Spanish Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, at the Royal Palace in Rabat on Thursday to begin a new stage in bilateral relations with Madrid. Sánchez's recognition of Morocco's autonomy plan for Western Sahara, describing it as the "most serious, credible and realistic" basis for resolving the dispute, served to put the diplomatic crisis of recent months behind him.

The meeting comes after the telephone conversation held last week by the Alaouite monarch and the President of the Government in which both leaders decided to postpone the imminent trip to Rabat of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation, José Manuel Albares, to set a new date for Sánchez himself to attend. Days later, the Moroccan Royal Court extended an invitation to the President of the Government to attend the 'Iftar', the nighttime meal that breaks the fast during the holy month of Ramadan.

Accompanied by Minister Albares and the Spanish Ambassador in Rabat, Ricardo Diez-Hochleitner, on the Spanish side, and by HM the King's adviser, Fouad Ali El Himma, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, African Cooperation and Moroccans Resident Abroad, Nasser Bourita, and HM the King's Ambassador in Madrid, Karima Benyaich, on the Moroccan side, the parties staged their definitive rapprochement.

The Prime Minister "reaffirmed" before King Mohammed VI Spain's position on the Sahara question, considering the Moroccan autonomy initiative as the "most serious, realistic and credible" basis for the resolution of the dispute, according to the Moroccan royal cabinet, as it did on 14 March in a letter. The reconciliation was sealed in just 30 minutes, the duration of the meeting.

During the audience, the parties also agreed on the need to open a new stage in relations between the two countries, based on "mutual respect, reciprocal trust, permanent consultation and frank and loyal cooperation". According to the Moroccan Royal Court, the parties agreed to set in motion "concrete actions" covering a common road map, a task for which they have put their respective cabinets to work.

Sánchez, received at the airport by his Moroccan counterpart Aziz Akhannouch, has assured that the recognition of Morocco's plan for the Sahara is "the best position in the general interest of Spain" and that his visit to Rabat is "more than just a photo". A firm change of stance to the foreign policy adopted by Spain 47 years ago.

"Positive things will come out of it", Sánchez insisted of an audience that has served to "go over the various aspects of common interest in their political, economic, security and cultural components", according to Morocco. But no significant commitments were made. On the horizon is the date for the reopening of the borders of Ceuta and Melilla, as well as their territorial integrity, although everything suggests that this is a commitment that has been assumed.

BOE Notification

The Official State Gazette (BOE) published on Thursday a previously undisclosed security cooperation agreement signed in Rabat by the Spanish and Moroccan interior ministers in February 2019. With five pages and up to 15 articles, the document consolidates a partnership against terrorism and illegal immigration that will enter into force on 30 April.

Fernando Grande-Marlaska and Abdelouafi Laftit initialled a document three years ago that guarantees Spanish-Moroccan cooperation on security-related issues. Although the provision contains that each party "may refuse, in whole or in part, or attach conditions to the execution of the request for assistance or information, if it considers that the execution of the request represents a threat to its sovereignty or national security or that it is in contradiction with the fundamental principles of its legal system or with other essential interests".

The BOE issued the document hours before the prime minister's visit to Rabat. Its content covers a wide range of cooperation in areas such as terrorism, human trafficking and illegal immigration, drug trafficking and the exchange of information.

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