Speaking before the UN 75th General Assembly, Sanchez said Spain supports a compromise-based and politically negotiated solution to the territorial dispute. In this, the Spanish PM insisted, Madrid remains committed to the UN Security Council’s resolutions.
“We must find a just, lasting, and mutually acceptable political solution to the Sahara conflict, as stipulated by the resolutions of the Security Council,” Sanchez said.
The Spanish PM’s speech was similar to the one he made at the 74th UN General Assembly in 2019. In that speech, too, he reaffirmed Spain’s neutrality on the Western Sahara issue, vowing to support the UN-led political process.
Spain’s position shift
Spain’s position on Western Sahara was not always neutral. Until the early 2000s, Spain was among the countries that challenged Morocco’s territorial integrity by supporting the self-proclaimed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR).
Former Spanish PM Jose Maria Aznar strongly defended this position, especially when Spain obtained a non-permanent position at the UN Security Council in 2003 and 2004.
At the end of Aznar’s term in 2004, however, relations between Morocco and Spain gradually improved and the European country switched towards a neutral stance on Western Sahara.
Spain maintained its neutral position over the past 15 years, through the governments of Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero (2004-2011), Mariano Rajoy (2011-2018), and Pedro Sanchez.
When Spain’s current Minister of Foreign Affairs Arancha Gonzalez Laya visited Morocco in January 2020, she reiterated her country’s support for the UN-led process in Western Sahara.
“Spain’s position on the [Western] Sahara conflict does not change depending on which political party or which coalition is leading the government,” Laya said.
The Spanish diplomat added that her country maintains a constant position on the Western Sahara issue based on the centrality and exclusivity of the UN-led political process.
Laya’s visit and reassuring words were mainly meant to appease Morocco’s worries after populist party Podemos — known for opposing Morocco’s territorial integrity — entered the Spanish coalition government.