The head of government declared that Morocco should open discussions about the situation of Ceuta and Melilla, the last Spanish-controlled territories in Africa.
Rabat – The Spanish government appears to be going for the jugular after Morocco’s Head of Government Saad Eddine El Othmani suggested in a recent interview that Ceuta and Melilla are part of Moroccan territory.
Speaking with Saudi television channel Al Sharq, El Othmani suggested that Morocco should begin discussing the situation of Ceuta and Melilla—the two Spanish enclaves in northern Morocco.
“Ceuta and Melilla are among the points on which it is necessary to open discussion,” El Othmani said.
“This file has been suspended for five to six centuries, but it will be reopened one day,” he added.
In response, Spain’s Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Cristina Gallach, summoned the Moroccan Ambassador to Spain, Karima Benyaich, on December 21 to discuss El Othmani’s comments.
The two autonomous cities were part of Morocco for much of the medieval age. However, Spain claimed Melilla in the 16th century and Ceuta in the 17th century. The European country has controlled the cities ever since.
A large part of the Moroccan population still considers Ceuta and Melilla as colonized territories that belong to Morocco. The Moroccan government has been less vocal about the irredentist claims, however.
The “privileged” bilateral relations between the two neighbors have so far stood in the way of an open confrontation on the sensitive issue of Ceuta and Melilla. But El Othmani’s recent statement seems to have put the Spanish government on the defensive.
“Spain expects all its partners to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our country,” said the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a press release.
According to the communique, Spanish State Secretary Gallach asked the Moroccan ambassador for clarifications regarding El Othmani’s statements.
The Moroccan Embassy in Madrid and Moroccan authorities are yet to make an official comment on the development.