The Government will negotiate territorial waters with Morocco in June after opening the borders of Ceuta and Melilla

The Minister of the Interior, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, set a date this Thursday for one of the most important and long-awaited issues of “the new stage” agreed between the Government of Spain and Morocco. The land borders between the two countries, in Ceuta and melilla, will gradually reopen starting next Tuesday, May 17. This was one of the issues agreed on last April 7 in a sealed joint declaration on the occasion of the visit of the leader of the Executive, Pedro Sánchez, and the Moroccan King Mohamed VI.

On paper, and as highlighted by Moncloa, it is the first concrete aspect that crystallizes in bilateral relations after the shift made by the Government regarding the position of Western Sahara. A conflict that will also be present, or should be, in the next major challenge: the negotiation of territorial waters, which will begin next june.

The foreign minister, Jose Manuel Albares He personally traveled this week to the neighboring country to personally close the pending fringes for the reopening of the borders. On Tuesday he met with his Moroccan counterpart, Naser Burita. The next day he did it again, also taking advantage of a meeting of the Global Coalition against Daesh, held in Marrakech. Albares announced a political agreement to open the borders, in the absence of some technical and logistical details that he was in charge of giving Marlaska this Thursday.

The steps of Ceuta and Melilla will reopen curiously just one year after the neighboring country allowed entrance of thousands of people, many of them minor, in the town of Ceuta. That organized action caused the greatest moments of tension between the two countries. Even Sánchez, days later, went so far as to describe Morocco’s position as “unacceptable”, linking those acts with the Spanish positions on the Occidental Sahara beyond the humanitarian welcome of the secretary general of the Polisario Front, Brahim Ghali, in our country.

Less than a year later, on March 18, a letter from the President of the Government to the Moroccan monarch was made public in which he highlighted his commitment to the sahara autonomy as “the most serious, realistic and credible basis” for resolving the conflict. A decision that caused the practically unanimous rejection of the rest of the parliamentary groups, with the partners of the Government of United We Can at the head, of the Polisario and Algerian Front.

The next important foreign challenge will also be related, directly or indirectly, to the Saharawi question. Albares confirmed that he had agreed with Burita to meet “the working group on the delimitation of maritime spaces in Spain during the month of June”. The places will alternate between both countries. This group has not met for 15 years.

as reported Public, European justice determines that certain waters that belong to the territory of Western Sahara cannot be included in these negotiations. Some areas that are de facto illegally administered by Morocco, which claims its sovereignty. And as a spectator involved in a very direct way, we have the Canary Islands, that it will have a representative in the negotiations, according to Albares himself.

The amount of natural resources present in these waters is one of the keys to an issue that was also topical again after an announcement by Morocco that it had found oil. An alleged finding that was questioned by Spanish professional associations.

Meanwhile, the Polisario, which announced that it was breaking off relations with the Spanish government a few weeks ago, will not participate in the negotiations either. “The waters of the Sahara cannot be the object of negotiation. If that happens, Spain would be directly recognizing Morocco’s sovereignty over the occupied territory. It would be something very serious,” they warn. To further fuel suspicions, the Alawite kingdom has nominated a staunch defender of the Moroccan occupation of the Sahara and its waters before the UN body responsible for maritime affairs.

Pegasus’ Suspicion

The advances with Morocco come in the midst of the political storm that has unleashed the ‘Pegasus case’. Moncloa has confirmed this week that apart from the mobile phones of Sánchez and the Minister of Defense, Margaret Oaksthe devices of Marlaska and of louis planes, Minister of Agriculture and former ambassador to the neighboring country. The coincidence of dates, protagonists and events, as well as the fact that the Moroccans have been pointed out by different international media as clients of Pegasus have fueled suspicions.

The Government has at all times avoided commenting on the matter. Even Albares had to submit to several questions from Spanish journalists in Morocco on the matter during his visit this week. “Diplomatic relations are based on facts, not in conjecture or hypothesis. I am not going to enter into conjectures with any country in the world, “she repeated up to three times.

Be that as it may, and despite Algeria is still a pending issue by Albares, in Foreign Affairs they show satisfaction with the progress made with Morocco. Among the achievements, some of which were reflected in the joint declaration of April 7, is the commitment to hold a High Level Meeting (RAN) before the end of the year. That event, which has not taken place since 2015, “will lead to a new Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation,” according to the Ministry.

In addition, the working group on migration issues, which has been idle for two years, has already met. And Albares stressed that thanks to this, the entry of migrants in the Canary Islands has fallen by 70% compared to last year. Moncloa trusts that scenes like the one in Ceuta a year ago will not be repeated. That cessation of “unilateral actions” which is used as a euphemism for it. The “roadmap” with Morocco, according to the Government, is “very ambitious and needs time to develop.” “Without emergencies and without pause,” according to Albares.

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