Torres described his meeting with Laya as “enlightening and reassuring,” stressing that Morocco will not touch a “single millimeter of Spanish waters.”
Rabat – Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya assured the President of the Canary Islands Angel Victor Torres on Saturday, January 25, that Morocco will not act unilaterally in defining its maritime borders.
The two Spanish officials met yesterday in Gran Canaria to go over Laya’s talks with Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs Nasser Bourita regarding the Moroccan parliament’s vote to delimit the kingdom’s maritime boundaries off its Atlantic Coast.
Spanish media outlets are reporting that Torres described the encounter as “enlightening and reassuring,” stressing that Morocco will not touch a “single millimeter of Spanish waters.”
“What has happened this week is the beginning of a legislative process by Morocco to delimit its maritime zone,” Laya explained, noting Morocco’s sovereign right to begin the process.
Laya insisted that Spain and Morocco will negotiate to reach a consensus on the delimitation of the North African country’s maritime borders, and that Spain will remain vigilant so that “the letter and spirit of international regulations” is respected.
“There will never be unilateralism, nor policy of consummated facts,” Laya declared.
The Spanish minister went on to remind Torres that drawing the borders is not yet a concern: “We are not there [yet]. There is no layout of the maritime zone by Morocco.”
“There is no map, no layout, no clear limits,” the Canarian president echoed.
Should Morocco encroach on Canarian waters, Torres continued, “the Government of Spain will automatically raise its denial to the United Nations and there would be no international recognition [of Morocco’s delimited maritime borders].”
The president of the Canary Islands also thanked Laya for her reassurance and underscored the value of Morocco-Spain diplomacy.
“It is good that Spain and Morocco maintain their [strong] relationship. We have many connection ties and these relationships are key, for example, for security in this area of the planet and to act on issues such as migratory movements,” Torres concluded.
On January 22, Morocco voted to adopt two draft laws to establish the country’s legal authority over its maritime domain.
The laws update Morocco’s maritime legislation to UN standards and assert the country’s sovereignty over the maritime zone off the coast of Western Sahara, between the cities of Tarafay and Dakhla and near the Canary Islands.
The laws are based on the UN Law of the Sea Convention that Morocco signed on December 10, 1982, and ratified on May 31, 2007.
The document sets the limits of maritime borders (12 nautical miles), straits, and exclusive economic zones (200 nautical miles). In the event of overlap, neighboring states must enter into dialogue or negotiation.
Spain reacted immediately to Morocco’s decision to redefine its maritime borders, with Laya tweeting out: “Spain and Morocco agree that the delimitation of our maritime spaces is still pending and may not be done unilaterally.”
Laya added that the two countries would come to a final decision on the limits of their respective maritime zones through dialogue, “in accordance with current international legislation.”
Laya landed in Rabat on January 24 to meet with the Moroccan FM.
During the meeting, and at a subsequent joint press conference, she emphasized that such decisions should not be taken “unilaterally.”
“Spain had the right, as a sovereign country, to review its maritime borders,” Moroccan FM Bourita also asserted during the press conference.
“Just like Spain did not ask Morocco while making its move, Morocco is a sovereign country and does not need to get Spain’s approval before making its decision.”
The Moroccan FM, however, reiterated his statement about Morocco’s willingness to engage in dialogue to avoid any possible rift between the two neighbors.
“Morocco has dialogue and openness to negotiated solutions in its diplomatic DNA.”