The Moroccan ambassador returns to Spain after the change on the Sahara

New twist in diplomatic relations with Morocco, this time, from the neighboring country. The Moroccan ambassador to Spain, Karima Benyaich, has returned to Madrid after her withdrawal from the country in mid-May 2021, Europa Press has learned. The Moroccan government called her ambassador in Madrid for consultations last year, after the diplomatic crisis opened by the reception in Spain of the leader of the Polisario Front, Brahim Ghali. The Moroccan ambassador has returned to Spain after the President of the govermentPedro Sánchez, will change his position on Western Sahara by endorsing as a “serious and credible basis” their autonomy plan to find a solution to the conflict.

The origin of the last crisis dates back to April 22, 2021, when it was revealed that Gali was in Spain and that he had entered under false identity, which was justified by the Spanish Executive for humanitarian reasons and in turn angered Morocco, which described it as deplorable and called the Spanish ambassador in Rabat to explain. In this climate, on May 17, 2021 Ceuta suffered the worst migration crisis in years with the arrival of some 10,000 immigrants from Morocco in just 48 hours, including some 800 minors, given the passivity of the authorities of that country.

This caused Spain to mobilize the Army while warning Morocco that will defend the territorial integrity of its borders “by all means”. This massive influx of immigrants aggravated the diplomatic crisis between the two countries, and a day later, on May 18, Morocco called its ambassador for consultation. Despite this, both countries worked together in the following days to organize the return of immigrants to Morocco. In this climate, weeks later, on July 10, 2021, the Spanish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Arancha González Laya, in a government reshufflewas replaced in office by José Manuel Albares.

The decision also occurs in the midst of an increase in tension with Algeria, which called its Spanish ambassador this Saturday for consultation with “immediate” effect after the declarations of the highest Spanish authorities and their “sudden change” of position. As they explained, the Algerian Foreign Ministry has been “very surprised” for Spain’s support for Morocco’s autonomy project for the Sahara. This opens a new chapter in relations between Spain and Algeria, the main supplier of gas to the Iberian Peninsula and that has always supported the struggle of the Saharawi people for the celebration of a self-determination referendum since in 1975 Moroccan troops occupied a territory that until that year it was a spanish colony.

Algerian diplomatic sources have made it known that Moncloa never informed the Argel on his change of position, as confirmed this past Saturday by government sources. However, the Government of Spain assured that it informed him “previously”, in the face of the “surprise” expressed by the Algerian Executive. In this sense, they have already expressed that, in their opinion, it is the “second historical betrayal” to the Saharawi peopledue to the agreement signed on November 14, 1975 by which it ceded the former colony of Spanish Sahara to Morocco and Mauritania, without taking into account the will of the Saharawi population. This Madrid Agreement was immediately denounced by the Polisario Front, erected as the representative of the Saharawi people and which proclaimed the independence of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR). The militias of the Polisario Front defeated Mauritanian forces and Nouakchott renounced the part of Western Sahara that was assigned to it in the aforementioned pact, but Morocco, with the Green March, managed to impose its control over the coastal part of the territory.

In this context, the Minister for Territorial Policy and spokesperson for the Government of Spain, Elizabeth Rodriguez, has defended Spain’s pact with Morocco, which supports the Moroccan autonomy plan for Western Sahara, because “it implies mutual respect and the absence of unilateral actions”. The spokeswoman has called for assessing the agreement as a “great news” for the “opening of a new stage in relations between Spain and Morocco” and because it sets itself up “precisely as an example” in these “times of war crisis and Putin’s atrocious invasion of the Ukrainian people.” For Rodríguez, the Government’s turn in the position on the Sahara does not affect the “solid” relationship with Algeria, which is for Spain “a strategic partner, reliable and friend“.

Regarding the gap opened with his government partners by the letter to Mohamed VI, Rodríguez has recognized that in the Executive each party has its positions on the matter, but has asserted that they act “with one voice” and he has recalled that foreign policy is led by the president. Faced with requests for explanations for this change, he has assured that they will be given to all political groups and that the Minister of Foreign Affairs, EU and Cooperation, José Manuel Albares, will appear in Congress. On the other hand, he has referred to the economic and social effects of the war in Ukraine. In this regard, he has urged citizens to make a “effort in energy consumption” and has guaranteed that the Government will work to “cushion” the crisis, with a reorientation of economic policy.

do not share the same opinion of the second vice president and Minister of Labor and Social Economy, Yolanda Díaz, who has appealed for a “joint reflection”. Díaz has also stressed that she was unaware of the situation and has recalled that she always works with “loyalty” to Sánchez, with whom he shares all the important decisions. Thus, he has expressed his “sadness” and that of United We Can for this change and has also highlighted his concern for Algeria’s reaction. For this reason, he has pointed out that both Sánchez and Albares have to explain why they have taken this step, in “incorrect” ways.