Some Spanish news outlets criticized Marlaska for not responding to the remarks Morocco’s Head of Government Saad Eddine El Othmani recently made on Ceuta and Melilla.
Rabat – Several Spanish news outlets have reacted to statements Spain’s Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska made Thursday on Morocco-Spain relations.
While some limited reporting to the strategic partnership between Spain And Morocco, others expressed frustration after the Spanish official did not comment on the recent remarks by Moroccan Head of Government Saad Eddine El Othmani on Ceuta and Melilla.
Ceuta Ladia news outlet reported that Marlaska has made no reference to the recent “diplomatic friction” between Rabat and Madrid after El Othmani’s remarks.
In December, El Othmani gave an interview to Saudi television channel Al-Sharq, where he suggested that Morocco should start discussing the situation of the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla.
“Ceuta and Melilla are among the points on which it is necessary to open discussion,” he stated.
El Othmani’s statement stunned the Spanish government and press, who immediately reacted.
Pedro Sanchez’s government summoned Morocco’s Ambassador in Madrid, Karima Benyaich, to discuss the remarks. During the consultation talks, Benyaich calmed tension but reaffirmed Morocco’s unchanged position regarding Ceuta and Melilla, which the North African country considers as occupied territories.
She assured, however, that El Othmani’s remarks do not mean that Morocco will seek to bring the topic to the center of bilateral cooperation between Spain and Morocco.
Despite the diplomat’s reassurance, the Spanish press continues to criticize Spanish officials for a perceived lack of a clear response to the Moroccan position.
Ceuta Ladia emphasized that Marlaska’s recent remarks do not include a reference to El Othmani’s statement.
“What Marlaska did is highlight the strategic importance of relations with Morocco and praised the ‘loyalty’ that both parties have been showing.”
The Spanish news outlet said that Marlaska limited himself to “recalling that“ Ceuta and Melilla’s security remains a priority for Spain.
El Faro de Melilla reported Marlaska’s statements in a similar tone, but considered the comments as a sufficient defense against El Othmani’s claims.
The news outlet reported that Marlaska has “defended that the security of Ceuta and Melilla is one of the priorities of Spain.”
The outlet also said Marlaska emphasized the importance of relations between Rabat and Madrid, describing the ties as “strategic and direct.”
Friction amid ongoing cooperation
El Faro de Melilla recalled that Morocco and Spain expect to convene at a high-level meeting this year to discuss cooperation in several fields, including border security and trade.
The high-level meeting, which many expect to take place in February, will cover talks on politics, industry, foreign policy, infrastructure, and security.
“The objective is to further consolidate our cooperation in these areas during this important meeting,” Marlaska emphasized.
Initially, the meeting was scheduled for December 17. Morocco and Spain adjourned the event due to COVID-19.
Spanish news outlets might consider Morocco’s growing diplomatic clout as a threat, especially after the US decision to recognize Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara.
El Othmani’s remarks on Ceuta and Melilla followed Trump’s official recognition of Morocco’s territorial integrity. The US’ decision proved that Morocco’s efforts to strengthen its diplomacy are reaping their fruit, perhaps making the Spanish press nervous over possible diplomatic talks about its enclaves on the African continent.