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Spain's new position on Western Sahara is a ‘victory for Moroccan diplomacy’

June 22, 2021 at 9:19 am

A Sahrawi woman chants during a march in central Madrid in support of Western Sahara on June 19, 2021 in Madrid, Spain [Xaume Olleros/Getty Images]

Spain’s announcement that it is willing to consider any solution proposed by Morocco regarding the Western Sahara issue is a victory for Moroccan diplomacy and may contribute to easing tension, an expert in international relations believes.

According to Salman Bounaman, professor of international relations at the University of Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah University in Fez, “The new Spanish position reveals Madrid’s failure to achieve its dynamic strategy to besiege Morocco in order to weaken it, which constitutes a victory for Moroccan diplomacy.” He made his claim after Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya announced her government’s new position on Western Sahara. Spain, she said, understands that Morocco is very sensitive about this issue.

“The intelligent and diversified diplomatic dynamism of Morocco has forced Spain to return to the table of negotiations under new conditions, seeking the satisfaction of Rabat,” explained Bounaman. He added that Spain’s new position is considered to be very positive. “This may help to ease the tension between the two countries, even if Rabat insists that Spain shows concrete actions to correct the situation.”

READ: Germany freezes over $1bn aid to Morocco over Western Sahara

Relations between Morocco and Spain have been in crisis since Madrid hosted Polisario leader Brahim Ghali, who used fake identity documents to travel, in April. The crisis was deepened by the influx of about 8,000 irregular migrants between 17 and 20 May in the Spanish enclave of Ceuta, in northern Morocco, which Rabat regards as “occupied” territory.

The government in Rabat proposes expanded autonomy in Western Sahara under Moroccan sovereignty. The Polisario Front, meanwhile, has called for a referendum on self-determination, a proposal supported by Algeria, which hosts refugees from the disputed region.