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UNGA: Spanish PM reiterates support for Western Sahara solution

Pedro Sanchez, Spain's prime minister, speaks during the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York, US, on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022 [Photo by Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg via Getty Images]
Pedro Sanchez, Spain's prime minister, speaks during the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York, US, on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022. The US and its allies got a new chance to cast Vladimir Putin as a pariah isolated on the global stage with this weeks gathering of world leaders in New York, even as the United Nations has failed to stop or even curb Russias war in Ukraine. Photographer: Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez surprised observers after he ignored the Moroccan autonomy proposal to solve the Saharawi issue and concentrated on the United Nations (UN) resolutions regarding the case. In his speech before the 77th session of the General Assembly, he took a step forward in courting Algeria.

Late Thursday night, the Spanish prime minister said his country supports the political solution agreed upon between the parties concerned with the Western Sahara file, Morocco and the Polisario Front. He affirmed that his country stands by the efforts of the special envoy of the secretary-general of the United Nations in the conflict, Staffan de Mistura. He also stressed support for the Sahrawi refugees in the Tindouf camps.

Prime Minister of Spain Pedro Sanchez

Prime Minister of Spain Pedro Sanchez

Contrary to his previous defence of the autonomy proposal in his famous letter sent on 18 March to Moroccan King Mohammed VI, this time, Sánchez did not refer to this proposal, instead expressing sympathy for the refugees.

Observers were surprised by the Spanish prime minister's speech on Western Sahara. The Spanish press extensively commented on Sánchez's negligence of the autonomy proposal. Algerian Echorouk newspaper wondered whether the Spanish prime minister had retracted his support for the principle of Moroccan autonomy. The Polisario Front commented that Sánchez could not defend autonomy from a UN platform. Morocco remained silent on the matter, and its press did not issue any comment.

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Sánchez's speech is considered another step in approaching Algeria after Spain suffered great economic losses due to Algeria's boycott. Algeria had withdrawn its ambassador from Madrid, assigned him to Paris, and stopped Spanish imports last June.

The Spanish national press reported that since Algeria's decision to suspend imports from Spain, Madrid lost €235 million in June and July alone, and the losses may exceed €350 million if August is counted.

Sánchez seeks to persuade Algeria to reconcile to avoid more losses since Spain lost the additional gas exports that France and Italy acquired. Algerian company Sonatrach intends to raise the gas price by 50 to 100 per cent. At the same time, Spain does not want to lose its position as the main client of Algerian gas.

READ: Algeria launches bid for UN Security Council

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