The new shift in Spain's foreign policy after showing its support for Rabat in the Autonomy Plan for Western Sahara, presented in April 2007, has turned the long-standing conflict in Western Sahara upside down. After more than 40 years of diplomatic neutrality on the part of Spain, Madrid is now positioning itself in favour of the resolution, marking a new diplomatic era between Spain and Morocco.
In this situation, the President of Spain, Pedro Sánchez, travelled to Ceuta, the autonomous city where he held a press conference in which, after thanking the government of Ceuta for its involvement in the fight against COVID-19, he referred to his Moroccan neighbour as a "strategic partner".
Sánchez remarked that "it is never too late if there is a good agreement for both countries. We are a country that has relations with Morocco that go beyond the sphere of security, which are fully involved in the control of migratory flows, without a doubt, but we must also remember that Morocco is a strategic partner for Spain in the economic and commercial sphere".
The President pointed out that the Alaouite kingdom "is our third largest trading partner outside the European Union, we have more than 16,000 companies located in Morocco, and we also have an important community within our borders. We are talking about an essential partner for the stability and progress of our country, so I think this is an agreement for both countries".
Referring to the diplomatic crisis that both kingdoms have been experiencing for almost a year, Sánchez declared that, "when we are talking about these relations, the important thing is that they see that the Spanish government has been aware for ten months that we had an unsustainable situation for a strategic country like Morocco. It was unsustainable to have relations cut off from a political, diplomatic and even economic point of view".
"What the Spanish government has done diplomatically has been to try to resolve those doubts in order to reach an agreement that is good for both countries," he explained.
"With this agreement", he said, "we are closing a crisis and laying the foundations for a much more solid, much stronger relationship, and in this sense I see aspects that are consolidated in this new relationship". With this new step, he says, Spain is committed to "building a solid and sincere relationship, based on mutual respect and the territorial integrity of both countries. I think this is extraordinary news for Spain and also for Morocco".
It has been six days since the publication by Morocco of the letter in which President Sánchez promised to support the resolution proposed by Rabat on autonomy for Western Sahara, a letter in which he did not address the question of the Canary Islands, Ceuta and Melilla, territories that Morocco claims to annex.
For this reason, and after being asked by journalists about this issue, Sánchez pointed out that "the security and stability of Ceuta and Melilla are paramount. This is what has also taken precedence in the work we have been doing with Morocco, a country that is a strategic and vital partner". He also indicated that the recent agreement guarantees the territorial sovereignty of both countries and lays the foundations for a "much more solid" relationship in terms of security and immigration.
He also reiterated the "fundamental" need to normalise diplomatic relations in all sectors, especially "in everything that has to do with mobility between Ceuta, the Peninsula and Morocco".
Finally, the president referred to the issue of Western Sahara and the way in which the new support for citizenship was announced as an issue "that he will deal with next week" and where "he will clear up any doubts that may have been created".