The Spanish Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez visited Rabat on Thursday 8th April for a meeting with the Moroccan King, Mohammed VI to mark a new chapter in Spanish-Moroccan relations following the end of the diplomatic stand-off between the two countries over the disputed Western Sahara.
“Today is an important day for Spain and Morocco because we initiate a new phase of bilateral relations,” Sánchez said after meeting with the King before they shared, along with family members, the Iftar meal to break the day’s fast during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
“This is a historic and necessary moment. Spain and Morocco are neighbours, friends and partners, making the bilateral relationship strategic for both.
Last month Sánchez took the surprising decision to recognise Morocco´s claim which it has been pressing since annexing the former Spanish colony 46 years ago.
In a letter to King Mohammed, Sánchez backed Morocco’s plan to give more autonomy to Western Sahara as long as it remains unquestionably under Moroccan sovereignty.
King Mohammed’s Royal Office issued a statement saying Sánchez “reaffirmed the position of Spain on the Sahara issue, considering the Moroccan autonomy initiative as the most serious, realistic and credible basis for resolving the dispute.”
Morocco is a key regional partner for Spain and plays a leading role in the fight against radical Islamic terrorist groups as well controlling the stem of sub-Saharan African migrants who try to cross into Europe via the North African Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla.
However, the rapprochement with Morocco has come with a price with its relations with Algeria who support the independence movement for the Western Sahara.
In addition, the country is a key supplier of gas imports to Spain.
The Algerian government recalled its ambassador to Spain on Sanchez´s announcement and who has yet to return.
The Spanish and Moroccan government agreed to hold a further summit later this year.