The President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, assures that the parties "will resort to dialogue and not to facts consummated" after their change of position on the Sahara and the controversies surrounding the autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla

España y Marruecos se comprometen a “evitar todo aquello que ofende a la otra parte” en materia de soberanía

PHOTO/AFP - Moroccan Prime Minister Aziz Akhannouch (right) meets with his Spanish counterpart Pedro Sánchez (left) in Rabat on 2 February 2023

Meeting on Thursday morning at the central headquarters of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Rabat, the heads of government of Spain and Morocco opened the twelfth High Level Meeting (HLM), scheduled on 7 April after Pedro Sánchez's last trip to Rabat and planned, in principle, to be held before the end of 2022. This is the most important bilateral summit in decades, consolidating the new stage in relations between the two countries that has opened following Spain's change of position on the Western Sahara issue. 

The Moroccan Prime Minister acknowledged this in his speech. "We welcome Spain's position on our first national cause, which supports the Moroccan proposal for autonomy in the Moroccan Sahara, presented by Morocco in 2007, and considers it the most serious, realistic and credible basis for the settlement of this false conflict", Aziz Akhannouch said, under the watchful eye of his Foreign Minister, Nasser Bourita, who had just come from a telephone conversation with the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken. 

Aziz Akhannouch

Spain and Morocco are expected to sign some twenty agreements on political, economic, migration and security cooperation at the High-Level Meeting. For this reason, 11 ministers are accompanying the President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, in Rabat, with the last-minute absence of the Minister of Justice, Pillar Llop. Another dozen members of the Moroccan government are accompanying Akhannouch to the summit.

The head of the Moroccan government attributed part of the responsibility for the improvement in relations to the King of Spain, Felipe VI. The meeting, Akhannouch pointed out, responds to "the firm aspiration of His Majesty King Mohammed VI and His Majesty King Felipe VI to strengthen the bilateral strategic partnership and to translate its broad guidelines into a clear road map, serving the interests of both friendly peoples". The Moroccan Prime Minister also highlighted the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding on the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between Morocco and Spain, which took place during the official visit of Felipe VI in February 2019.  

Gobierno de Marruecos

"Our meeting today takes place in a context of profound regional and international changes, with the security challenges now facing the countries of the region at the forefront," Akhannouch mentioned. "This requires, more than ever, intensified efforts to address the security threats to the region related to illegal immigration, human trafficking, drug trafficking, terrorism, separatist groups and armed factions, based on a comprehensive approach that combines security and social dimensions". 

Sánchez, who visited the Mausoleum of Mohammed V in Rabat early in the morning, acknowledged that the High-Level Meeting "is of an exceptional nature. Not only because it is the first in eight years, but also because of the mandate we agreed on in the Joint Declaration of 7 April, which has strengthened the foundations of our work with an important affirmation of principles, on which our joint work rests". 

Gobierno de España

The President of the Government, escorted by two of his Vice-Presidents, the Minister of Economy, Nadia Calviño, and the Minister of Energy Transition, Teresa Ribera, mentioned in his opening speech that, with the meeting, "we are consolidating the new stage we have opened in relations between Spain and Morocco", which go "far beyond mere neighbourliness". "We are committed to transparency and permanent communication. We will always resort to dialogue and not to faits accomplis", he insisted.

The parties have reaffirmed "the validity and integrity of all the agreements between the two sides: those that laid the foundations of our relations in the past, those that set our borders and those that establish advanced cooperation mechanisms", including an update of the Treaty of Good Neighbourliness, Friendship and Cooperation signed in 1991, according to Sánchez. By virtue of this agreement, the High-Level Meetings began to be held, initially planned on an annual basis. 

Pedro Sánchez

The President of the Government announced that Spain and Morocco had undertaken "to avoid everything that we know offends the other party, especially in what affects our respective spheres of sovereignty". Sánchez alluded to the Western Sahara dossier, an issue on which the Alawite kingdom's foreign policy pivots and on which Spain changed its position in order to close the bilateral crisis. This includes Spanish sovereignty over Ceuta and Melilla, the autonomous cities over which Morocco opened pilot trade customs. 

"I am very satisfied with the success of the first commercial expedition that took place last Friday through the customs offices of Ceuta and Melilla. We are going to ensure together that these customs offices continue to open in an orderly and progressive manner until we reach full normalisation of the passage of people and goods, as we agreed last year," Sánchez said of an agreement included in the joint declaration of April of last year.