These are the questions about the Sahara that Sánchez and his foreign minister have avoided since Friday

The Congress of Deputies awaits this Wednesday, at 4:30 p.m., the appearance of the Foreign Minister, Jose Manuel Albares, to explain the details of the “new framework of relations with Morocco”, according to Moncloa’s terminology. The in-depth explanations will thus be produced 5 days after the communication made public by the Royal House of Mohammed VI. It expressed a historical turn of the Government of Pedro Sanchez regarding your position on Western Sahara, by betting on the Autonomy Plan proposed by Morocco as the “most realistic basis”. The Executive has avoided during these days specifying some explanations that are still up in the air.

The President of the Government had two public appearances last Monday. In both he avoided answering questions from the media. If he did the foreign minister, although the explanations were not many, and he even directly refused to answer precisely by alleging his appearance in Congress. The same reference, to this Wednesday’s meeting in the Foreign Affairs Committee, was made by the Executive’s spokeswoman, Elizabeth Rodriguez, at the usual press conference after the Council of Ministers on Tuesdays. Moncloa sources reiterated to Public that position of waiting for Albares.

Among the unknowns, the Government has not yet given explanations about one of them: the specific content of the letter that Sánchez sent to Morocco. The Government has not given explanations but has made it public by leaking it to The country this Thursday. The Moroccan Royal House was in charge of announcing the existence of that communication, but did not disseminate the document in question, but rather a summary of it. Neither did Moncloa, reacting with a statement without references to the Sahara or support for an autonomy plan proposed by the Alaouite kingdom.

Albares will also have to explain whether or not there is a change in Spain’s position on the Saharawi issue. Both the Government and the PSOE, reflected in an internal argument, have been transmitting this message from day one. But at the same time they consider that “a new stage” has opened with the neighboring country. Moncloa and the socialist leadership appeal to the support given by the Government of Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero to Moroccan plans since 2008.

Among the unknowns that still remain to be cleared up, one stands out above all. What is the specific content of the letter that Sánchez sent to Morocco?

The terminology used then and now is different. Spain has gone from speaking of Morocco’s “positive contribution” to “the most realistic and credible basis”, as Rodríguez verbalized at a press conference. Neither at that time, nor in any subsequent year, did Morocco communicate with the satisfaction of these days the closeness with Spain. Quite the contrary. The Moroccan ambassador in our country, Karim Benyaich, pointed out, as a result of the Brahim Ghali case, the discontent with “a fundamental issue for the Moroccan people and its active forces”. This was later corroborated by Rabat’s Foreign Minister, Nasser Bourita.

The PSOE itself included in its 2019 electoral program a reference to the right of self-determination of the Saharawi people. It was eliminated last October at its 40th Federal Congress, which also did not include anything regarding the Moroccan Autonomy Plan. Sánchez’s decision has caused some confusion among the grassroots and some socialist positions due to the sensitivity that the Saharawi cause has among its ranks.

Did Algeria know or not know?

Last weekend, shortly after Sánchez’s letter was known, Moncloa transmitted the following message: “The Spanish Government previously informed the Algerian about Spain’s position in relation to the Sahara. For Spain, Algeria is a strategic partner, a priority and reliable, with whom we intend to maintain a privileged relationship”. The reaction of the Algerian authorities went in the opposite direction. They denied having knowledge of the turn, showed their disagreement and they called their ambassador for consultations.

But the speech since last Saturday has been modulated, to the point that now Moncloa does not clarify whether the Government of Algeria had the necessary information. “Is a two-part agreement between Morocco and Spain and not with third countries,” spokeswoman Rodríguez reiterated on several occasions this Tuesday. “Communications between Spain and Morocco are bilateral communications exclusively between Spain and Morocco,” Albares said on Monday, without giving further details.

Another key question is What exactly does the support for the Autonomy Plan proposed by Morocco mean?. Will there be any change in your political actions? The Government continues to point out, despite opting for the positions of the neighboring country, that the solution to the conflict has to come within the framework of the UN and accepted by both parties. The other part that is not Morocco is the Polisario Front, legitimate representative of the people recognized by the UN. The Sánchez Executive has not made any reference to the Saharawi authorities and whether it will affect the relationship with them. The Polisario flatly rejects autonomy and is committed to a self-determination referendum that includes independence.

The “new framework of relations with Morocco” has also justified, in general, that it guarantees “territorial integrity”. The historical claims of the neighboring country on Ceuta, Melilla and even the Canary Islands are known. specifically asked for if territorial integrity was at risk of Spain due to the threat from Morocco, the Government spokesperson limited herself to saying that “we must look forward and not backward”. Albares announced on Friday that he had personally called the presidents of the autonomous cities and the Canary Islands to inform them of the agreement.

An issue that has not been mentioned at any time is the issue of Human Rights. Is it collected at some point in the agreement a Moroccan commitment to respect human rights of the Saharawi population? From the occupied territories of Western Sahara, reports of arbitrary trials, torture and arrests are common. Activists such as Sultana Jaya or Aminetu Haidar are watched with special attention and their cases have reached the European institutions and international human rights organizations.

After the appearance of Albares, Sánchez’s turn will come presumably next week. It will also do so in Congress, taking advantage of the celebration of the important European Council that is being held this Thursday and Friday in Brussels. The leader of the Executive will explain the conclusions of this summit and that of NATO, as well as the Economic Recovery Plan. It will also be time to address “the new framework of relations with Morocco.”


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