The Spanish Ministry of Defence has refused to participate in the army manoeuvres scheduled to take place in a part of Western Sahara from 7 to 18 June, following Madrid's refusal to help normalise Morocco's occupation of the region.
El Pais newspaper revealed that the Spanish army refused to take part in African Lion 21 manoeuvres, the like of which Morocco hosts every year. A number of countries usually participate.
Government sources told El Pais that the real reason behind Madrid's rejection of the invitation of the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) to participate in the drill to be held in a part of Western Sahara is not related to the budget as it was announced. Rather, it was due to the fact that a large part of the exercises, in which Spain normally takes part every year, will be held for the first time in the occupied Sahrawi territory.
Spain is apparently not even going to send observers, unlike 20 other countries. The government in Madrid believes that Spain's presence would legitimise the Moroccan occupation of the former colony.
This boycott of the manoeuvres comes in the middle of a diplomatic crisis between Madrid and Rabat. The Kingdom is said to be trying to blackmail Spain because of its positions in support of international legitimacy in Western Sahara.
Rabat has started interfering in Spain's internal affairs and escalated its political and diplomatic attack against Madrid following the Spanish government's decision to allow Sahrawi President Brahim Ghali to enter the country to seek medical treatment.