Foreign Affairs The day that Sánchez went down in history: small advances and giant losses from the abandonment of the Sahara

President Sánchez fulfilled one of his aspirations to go down in history just one year ago

Foreign Affairs The day that Sánchez went down in history: small advances and giant losses from the abandonment of the Sahara

President Sánchez fulfilled one of his aspirations to go down in history just one year ago. On Friday, March 18, 2022, the Moroccan Royal House leaked extracts from a letter written in French in which it was stated that "Spain considers the Moroccan autonomy initiative for Western Sahara as the most serious, realistic and credible basis for the resolution of the disagreement».

For the first time in half a century, the national Executive abandoned its neutrality between the Polisario Front and Morocco to support the solution that Rabat proposed to the United Nations in 2007: that the Alaouite kingdom cede administrative and fiscal powers and control religious and security issues. The Government took this step at a critical moment in relations with Morocco, thinking of achieving a new long-term relationship, in which our first trading partner does not function based on blackmail. In fact, Rabat welcomed the letter and stated that this gesture "allows us to foresee a clear and ambitious roadmap to register in a lasting way." Sánchez copied, at a certain point, Donald Trump, who on December 10, 2020, recognized in a tweet Morocco's sovereignty over the Sahara in exchange for the normalization of relations with Israel. But what has Spain achieved?

"We can talk about significant advances in the political, economic and cultural fields from which our respective peoples benefit," foreign sources told EL MUNDO. However, Bernabé López, Honorary Professor of Arab and Islamic Studies at the Autonomous University of Madrid, believes that “one year is too short a time to see truly tangible results in a country's foreign relations. At the moment there are promises that there will be no shocks or unilateral actions, something that until now has been common currency in the relations to which Morocco has accustomed us.

However, the figures are not as successful when compared to the past. This is how former minister José Manuel García-Margallo analyzes it, who affirms that "from the security point of view in the Strait we have not improved, what is more, we are in a weaker situation because we have shown that we are giving in." However, he acknowledges that with this twist "they have avoided images like those of Ceuta and Melilla, but it can be achieved in another way." His opinion is supported by comparing the immigration figures of 2016 with those of last year. Then 672 irregular immigrants arrived by sea in the Canary Islands and 6,443 in Ceuta and Melilla. Last year 15,682 entered the archipelago and 2,286 to Ceuta and Melilla.

Another of the achievements that is affected is the celebration of the High Level Meeting (RAN), some meetings between both governments that were organized before the diplomatic crisis but that had not been organized for eight years. Despite the shift regarding the Sahara in this RAN held in February, he was unable to get Mohamed VI to receive Sánchez, whom he dispatched with a phone call inviting him to meet at another time. Faced with this fact, Albares stated in his voluntary appearance at the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Congress of Deputies held on February 21 that "it is very important that someone in Spain have a close relationship with the King of Morocco."

Another of the achievements that the Executive is talking about is the reopening of the customs office in Melilla, closed since 2018, and the opening for the first time of a customs office in Ceuta on January 27. However, only two commercial exchanges have been made. But the deadlines, which according to Foreign Affairs are previously agreed, are not public. And that is one of the problems that the former Ambassador to Morocco Jorge Dezcallar sees in the turn on the Sahara: «The Government one year later does not explain what advantages we have achieved, the PSOE has been left alone and has placed us in a very uncomfortable with Algeria.

Morocco has always been our first trading partner, in fact, in 2022 we exported 11,748.23 million euros, surpassing the 10,000 million barrier for the first time. However, in Algeria the trade deficit is 143% worse, as this newspaper published, and makes the situation of Spanish companies there very difficult. Africa's largest country suspended trade with Spain in June. Although not the gas supply, Margallo recalls that this crisis is very negative "at a time when governments are trying to diversify their energy sources, in which Algeria has become a key country and Spain has lost its strategic position" .

Bernabé López concludes: «As regards the Saharawi problem, I think that, unfortunately, things continue as bad as they were, because after all, the alleged turnaround has been more verbal than real».

“I recognize the importance of the Western Sahara issue for Morocco and the serious and credible efforts of Morocco, within the framework of the United Nations, to find a mutually acceptable solution. In this sense, Spain considers the Moroccan autonomy proposal presented in 2007 as the most serious, credible and realistic basis for resolving this dispute.

In this new context, you have my guarantee that Spain will act with the absolute transparency that befits a great friend and ally. I assure you that Spain will always fulfill its commitments and its word.

I look forward to meeting with Your Majesty as soon as possible...».

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