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Dramatic Shift of Spain's Position on Western Sahara

By: Ahmed Fathi

Having Western Sahara run more autonomously under Rabat's sovereignty is "the most serious, realistic and credible" offer for resolving a decades-long dispute over the area, the Spain's prime minister Pedro Sánchez wrote to Morocco's King Mohammed VI on Friday.

In the past, Spain has viewed Morocco's occupation as an occupation. After months of icy diplomatic relations, Spain announced a rush of visits by officials to its southern neighbor.

In a letter to King Mohammed VI, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez acknowledged "the importance of the Sahara issue for Morocco."

“Spain considers the autonomy initiative presented by Morocco in 2007 as the most serious, realistic, and credible,” Sánchez was cited as saying by the royal palace.

The Moroccan announcement was corroborated by Spain's Foreign Minister.

We are ending a crisis with a strategic partner today,” he told reporters. It is based on mutual respect, conformity with agreements, absence of unilateral actions and transparency and constant communication.

Last year, Spain covertly welcomed the commander of the Polisario Front, which has inspired many Saharawis to demand independence.

When the media reported Brahim Ghali's presence in Spain, Rabat opened the border to 10,000 people. This unleashed a humanitarian crisis. And Morocco has not reinstalled its ambassador in Madrid.

In late 2020, frustrated by three decades of uncertainty, Polisario forces and the Moroccan army resumed hostilities.

Morocco proposed further autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty in 2007. Rabat's suggestion is gaining traction. With France's support came the US, which recognized Morocco's sovereignty over the Western Sahara in 2020, and lately Germany.

Algeria, a long-time Polisario supporter, cut diplomatic ties with Rabat last year over Morocco's assertiveness.

The Moroccan Foreign Ministry said Albares, Spain's foreign minister, has been invited to discussions in Rabat later this month.

In a statement, the Spanish government said it welcomed the invitations and intended to work with Rabat on “common challenges,” including “migration management in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic.”

According to the Moroccan royal palace, Sánchez wrote to the king that Spain wants to “act with the absolute transparency that a great friend and ally deserves.”


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