Morocco, Spain accuse trade of violating good ‘neighborhood’
MADRID / RABAT (Reuters) – Morocco and Spain exchanged new accusations on Monday in a diplomatic row sparked by the territorial question of Western Sahara that led this month to a migration crisis in the Spanish enclave north of the Morocco.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez described Morocco’s actions in appearing to ease border controls with the Ceuta enclave as unacceptable and as an attack on national borders.
The Moroccan Foreign Ministry, for its part, criticized Spain for breaking “mutual trust and respect”, drawing parallels between the problems of Western Sahara and the Spanish region of Catalonia, where there is a movement for independence. .
The dispute was sparked by Spain which admitted the leader of the Western Sahara independence movement, Brahim Ghali, for medical treatment without notifying Rabat.
“It is not acceptable for a government to say that we will attack the borders, that we will open the borders to accommodate 10,000 migrants in less than 48 hours … because of foreign policy disagreements,” Sanchez said during ‘a press conference.
Most of the migrants who entered Ceuta were immediately returned to Morocco, but hundreds of unaccompanied minors, who cannot be deported under Spanish law, remain.
The influx was widely seen as retaliation for Spain’s decision to quietly take Ghali
Morocco considers Western Sahara to be part of its own territory. The Polisario, backed by Algeria, seeks an independent state in the territory, where Spain was the colonial ruler until 1975.
Describing Spain as Morocco’s best ally in the European Union, Sanchez said he wanted to convey a constructive attitude towards Rabat, but insisted that border security was paramount.
“Remember that the neighborhood… must be based on respect and trust,” he said.
Morocco’s foreign ministry said in a statement that Spain violated good neighborliness and mutual trust and that migration was not the problem.
Rabat added that he had cooperated with Madrid to curb the flow of migrants and fight terrorism, which she said helped foil 82 militant attacks in Spain.
Ghali’s case “exposed Spain’s hostile attitudes and harmful strategies towards the Moroccan Sahara,” the ministry said in a statement.
Spain “cannot fight separatism at home and promote it in its neighbor”, he declared, stressing the support of Rabat in Madrid against the Catalan independence movement.
Separately, Ghali, who was hospitalized for COVID-19 in Logroño in the Rioja region, will attend a High Court hearing from the hospital on Tuesday, his lawyer’s office said.
Morocco, which withdrew its ambassador to Madrid, said it could sever ties with Spain if Ghali left the country in the same way he entered without trial.
(Report by Inti Landauro, Emma Pinedo and Ahmed Eljechtimi, edited by Nathan Allen and Bill Berkrot)