For the first time, Madrid supports Rabat’s plans to impose greater control over Western Sahara, where separatists have been resisting Moroccan presence for years. The Spanish authorities said enthusiastically that the move represented a “new phase” in relations with Morocco. Morocco said it was pleased with Spain’s “constructive commitments”.
So far, Spain has chosen to remain neutral in the dispute over Western Sahara, the country’s former colony. According to the United Nations, the region is not a sovereign country, but it is not part of Morocco – Western Sahara is effectively a daughter of the international community.
Not everyone reacts enthusiastically to the Spanish change, of course. The separatist Polisario movement, which says it defends the right of self-determination for people who traditionally live in Western Sahara, calls it a “fatal mistake”. Spain has also come under heavy criticism from Algeria, which has poor relations with its neighbor Morocco and fully supports the Polisario. In protest, Algeria recalled its ambassador from Spain.
Morocco wants autonomy and separatists want independence
The seeds of much quarrel were sown in 1975, when Spain withdrew from Western Sahara and Morocco decided to seize much of the area. After 15 years of armed struggle, the Polisario and Morocco officially signed a ceasefire agreement. Since then, the Polisario has demanded that the half-million residents of Western Sahara be allowed to decide by referendum on their international status, a scheme earlier supported by the United Nations. On the other hand, Morocco’s plans, which could now rely on the consent of Spain, would provide at most an autonomous state within the Kingdom of Morocco.
The Polisario is not keeping the tide. In 2020, US President Trump has already spoken in favor of greater Moroccan control of Western Sahara, a position that has remained unchanged under President Biden (in return, Trump persuaded Morocco to make overtures toward Israel). Within the European Union, France has previously been receptive to Morocco’s views on Western Sahara.
Immigration plays a role in changing politics in Spain
It seems that Spain is hoping to help Morocco get help in the fight against clandestine immigration. This issue contributed to a serious deterioration in relations between Madrid and Rabat last year: thousands of migrants stormed the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla bordering Morocco. According to Spain, Morocco deliberately allows migrants to go to Madrid “as a tool of pressure”. Announcing the rapprochement with Morocco, the Spanish government declared that it was keen to work together for “common” goals, particularly in managing migration around the Mediterranean.
The deal appears to be creating tensions within the left-wing government of Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez: Deputy Prime Minister Yolanda Diaz, of the Socialist Party Podemos, said on Twitter that she would continue to support the interests of the Sahrawi people in the West. the desert. “For defence.”
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