spain pm visits morocco to ease rising tension following shift in western sahara stand

Spain PM visits Morocco to ease rising tension following shift in Western Sahara stand

 Prime Minister of Spain, Pedro Sanchez is on a two day visit to Morocco and will meet King Mohammed VI of Morocco on Thursday. The visit to Rabat is said to be an attempt by Spanish leader to ease out straining relations after changing stand focused on Western Sahara. The Spanish government sources have said that the King has reportedly invited Prime Minister Sanchez and his family to share the Iftar meal, breaking day’s fast during the ongoing holy month of Ramadan.

Spain’s government has called the meeting an opportunity to begin a “new stage” in relations with Morocco which is based on “mutual respect,” and also to discuss “restraint from any unilateral action to honor the importance of all that we share and to avoid future crises.”

The two countries that are separated by the Strait of Gibraltar saw frayed relations last year in April. Morocco was unhappy over Spain allowing leader of Western Sahara’s pro-independence movement receive medical treatment in Spain for Covid-19. This was on request of Algeria, neighbour and long time foe of Morocco, that is also an ally of pro – independence Sahrawis. Expressing its anger, Morocco loosened border controls along Spain’s North Africa enclave of Ceuta. This prompted surge in illegal crossings of scores of migrant from African countries into Spain.

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Last month, Sanchez publicly backed Morocco’s plan to give autonomy to Western Sahara, a former colony of Spain. This was a surprise decision by Spanish Prime Minister over altering long standing position of Spain on Western Sahara. The Spanish leader lauded Rabat’s proposal publicly, calling it “the most serious, realistic and credible initiative for resolving the decades-long dispute over the vast territory”. Western Sahara is predominantly barren territory but is rich in phosphates and enjoys fertile fishing grounds in Atlantic Ocean. Morocco reciprocated Spain’s action by sending back its ambassador to Spain 10 months after she was initially recalled.