Prime Minister of Spain Pedro Sanchez has called for the relaunch of UN-led negotiations about Western Sahara.
“We must […] relaunch negotiations on the Western Sahara issue, which has witnessed new developments in recent weeks, under the leadership of the United Nations Secretary-General,” Sanchez said.
“We must move towards a just, lasting, and mutually acceptable political solution, under the parameters reiterated in the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council,” he added.
The Spanish PM made the statement on Monday, January 18, during the sixth Spanish Conference of Ambassadors in Madrid.
The annual conference allows top Spanish officials, including Sanchez and Minister of Foreign Affairs Arancha Gonzalez Laya, to share their foreign policy vision with the Spanish ambassadors appointed abroad.
In his speech, Sanchez spoke extensively about Spain’s positions vis-a-vis regional issues, such as the Western Sahara dispute, as well as bilateral relations with neighboring countries, including Morocco.
Regarding Western Sahara, Sanchez affirmed that Spain’s position remains unchanged.
“A just, lasting, and mutually acceptable solution according to the UN Security Council resolutions is the position that Spain has always had regarding Western Sahara,” he said.
The Spanish PM stressed the need for the Western Sahara dispute to soon reach a solution, highlighting its importance for stability and prosperity in the Maghreb region and beyond.
“I believe that stability and prosperity in the Maghreb will benefit Europe and the world,” he declared.
The neutral tone of Sanchez regarding Western Sahara did not differ from his speech at the 75th UN General Assembly, on September 25, 2020, when he affirmed his country’s support for the UN-led process.
The Spanish position aligns with Morocco’s stance in favor of the UN-led process. Morocco has always expressed support for the UN Security Council and the UN Mission in Western Sahara (MINURSO) to help achieve a just, durable, and mutually acceptable solution to the conflict.
Sanchez’s statement seems to be an indicator that, contrary to what Spanish media has recently alleged, Spain does not intend to convince US President-Elect Joe Biden to reverse the decision of outgoing US President Donald Trump to recognize Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara. Instead, Spain would avoid interference in the UN-led process.
Regarding relations with Morocco, Sanchez said that “such countries are fundamental to our interests.”
He expressed his hope that the COVID-19 pandemic will soon allow the Moroccan-Spanish high-level meeting to take place. The meeting was initially scheduled for December 17, 2020, but then it was postponed to February 2021.
While the officially-announced reasons for the rescheduling were coronavirus-related safety concerns, several foreign policy experts suggest that the deferral has more to do with diplomatic tensions between Morocco and Spain. Experts have notably pointed to a tweet where Spanish Vice-President for Social Rights, Pablo Iglesias, challenged Morocco’s territorial integrity.
Sanchez mentioned the upcoming high-level meeting in Rabat in a rather optimistic tone, saying it will allow Moroccan and Spanish officials to build up on previous agreements in order to boost bilateral partnership.
Moroccan state media also reported that Sanchez described Morocco as “a partner of utmost importance” for Spain. However, Morocco World News was unable to verify the statement through the available footage of the speech.