Moroccan parties call on Spain to clarify position on Western Sahara

They also reiterated their full support for the measures taken by Rabat in response to Madrid’s decision to receive the leader of the Algeria-backed Polisario Front Ibrahim Ghali.
Thursday 10/06/2021
A file picture shows Nabil Benabdellah, Secretary General of the Party of Progress and Socialism speaking during a party meeting. (REUTERS)
A file picture shows Nabil Benabdellah, Secretary General of the Party of Progress and Socialism speaking during a party meeting. (REUTERS)

RABAT – Moroccan opposition parties called on Spain to issue a clear position on the Western Sahara issue, reiterating their full support for the measures taken by Rabat in response to Madrid’s decision to receive the leader of the Algeria-backed Polisario Front Ibrahim Ghali.

This came during a joint meeting organised by the Progress and Socialism Party, the Independence Party and the Authenticity and Modernity Party.

Nabil Ben Abdallah, head of the Progress and Socialism Party, stressed that Morocco had made the right moves during the recent crisis, with the aim of bringing about a shift in the ambiguous position of the northern neighbour of the kingdom on the issue of territorial integrity.

“At least so that they stop stabbing us in the back, with the absence of an official recognition of our territorial integrity,” Ben Abdallah said.

The Moroccan political parties said, through their representatives, that the Western Sahara issue enjoys a popular and political consensus in Morocco, but that “does not obscure the need for concerted efforts by all partisan institutions and the activation of parallel diplomacy to defend the Moroccan cause more effectively before our Spanish and European counterparts and push them to pressure Madrid into abandoning its actions against the interests of the kingdom.”

Ben Abdallah called for strengthening the national front and closing ranks, by forming a democratic front and bringing about a political breakthrough, “so that this weapon [division] is not exploited by our opponents,” he said.

Abdellatif Wahbi, secretary-general of the Authenticity and Modernity Party, agreed with Ben Abdallah, stressing that Morocco should strengthen its democracy as an effective way to confront its opponents.

Tensions are still high between Spain and Morocco, especially after the leader of the separatist Polisario Front left the Spanish territory, which makes it difficult to adjust the course of relations between Rabat and Madrid, despite the latter’s desire to restore those relations.

Moroccan opposition parties believe that it is necessary to remain cautious in dealing with Madrid, especially since Spain’s political players do not all agree with the decisions of their government.

“There are voices opposing the current Spanish government’s approach to relations with Morocco, such as the Popular Party, which accused Pedro Sanchez’s government of harming the strategic relationship with Morocco,” said Nizar Baraka, Secretary-General of the Independence Party.

He explained that “the current tension between Morocco and Spain cannot be blamed on all components of the Spanish political fabric.”

Local Spanish media had earlier reported that Madrid was weighing several options to end the escalation in relations with Rabat, including relying on credible mediation. Another option would be a visit by a Spanish minister to Rabat, provided that the visiting minister is not Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya.  A visit by King Philip VI to Rabat for talks with Morocco’s King Mohammed VI could also help resolve the worsening crisis.

Spain hopes to swiftly restore relations with Morocco to their normal course. Rabat, however, wants the Spanish authorities to answer fundamental questions regarding Madrid’s positions on the issue of Morocco’s territorial integrity. Rabat is also hoping to attack the matter of maritime borders’ demarcation and other disputes, including the repatriation of Moroccan minors and the issue of seasonal workers in Spanish strawberry fields.

Turning the page on the confrontation between the two countries will not be easy under the government of Sanchez, experts in international relations say.

For such a dispute to be resolved, there is need for a lot of diplomatic efforts and political initiatives, the experts argue, stressing that Madrid’s notification to Rabat about the Polisario leader’s departure from the country towards Algeria is not enough.

For Morocco, as noted in a foreign ministry’s statement, at the core of the problem is a matter of broken trust between partners. “The root of the crisis is a question of hostile Spanish ulterior motives about the Sahara, a sacred cause of the whole of the Moroccan people.”

The head of the Authenticity and Modernity Party referred to this , when he insisted that the crisis is not related to Ghali or his trial, “but rather the presence of a powerful lobby within the Spanish government that stands against Morocco’s interests by supporting secession in the Western Sahara.”