The Government of Spain has dealt a new blow to Spanish politicians who challenge Morocco’s territorial integrity and urge their government to intervene in the Western Sahara dispute.
In a written parliamentary response, the Spanish government stressed that Spain has “no international responsibility” to intervene in the region, Europa Press has reported.
The Spanish government submitted the letter on Wednesday, February 17, in response to a question from Catalonia-based party Ciudadanos (Citizens).
The parliamentary question claimed that Spain has “de jure administrative power” over Western Sahara, which gives the country the right to decide on the fate of the region.
The response completely debunked the claim, which Spanish politicians hostile towards Morocco have recently repeated frequently.
“Spain considers itself detached from any international responsibility relating to the administration of Western Sahara since the Permanent Representative of Spain to the UN sent a letter on February 26, 1976, to the UN Secretary General,” the response said.
The 1976 letter informed the UN that Spain “has definitively terminated its presence in the territory of the Sahara” and “is considered to be henceforth detached from any international responsibility in relation to the administration of said territory.”
In its recent response, the Spanish government also stressed that “Spain does not appear as an administrative power in the list of non-autonomous territories of the UN, nor in the annual reports of the UN Secretary General on Western Sahara, nor in any of the UN Security Council resolutions on the issue.”
The Spanish government took the opportunity to reaffirm its “constant” position on the issue, which falls in favor of “a political, just, lasting, and mutually acceptable solution” to the territorial dispute.
Spain supports the UN-led process in Western Sahara, the written response stressed.
Spain maintains friendly tone towards Morocco
Ciudadanos’ parliamentary question touched on other issues that concern Morocco, including the Moroccan-Spanish maritime borders, the status of Ceuta and Melilla, and “migratory pressure” on the Canary Islands.
The political party “warned” Spain’s government of “Morocco’s territorial ambitions,” claiming that the North African country’s delimitation of its maritime borders in early 2020 challenges Spain’s sovereignty over the waters near the Canary Islands.
The Spanish government’s response came in a pacifist tone, saying that the issue will reach its resolution through the “fluid dialogue” between Morocco and Spain, in accordance with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and with “mutual agreements.”
Regarding Ceuta and Melilla, the two Spanish-controlled enclaves in northern Morocco, Spain’s government refused to make any comment on their status. It referred Ciudadanos to the statement that the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs published in late December 2020.
The statement came in response to remarks from Morocco’s Head of Government, Saad Eddine El Othmani, which was perceived as controversial in Spain.
El Othmani had declared in a televised interview that Morocco will someday bring up the issue of Ceuta and Melilla, which the North African country officially considers as occupied territories. The Spanish diplomacy considered the statement to be “an attack on Spain’s territorial integrity.”
The Spanish government also downplayed the final issue Ciudadanos mentioned, concerning the flow of migration from Morocco to the Canary Islands.
The government considered the issue to be a “shared challenge” of Morocco and Spain, as opposed to how the political party attempted to portray it — a challenge Morocco causes for Spain.
Morocco is “a neighboring and friendly country, as well as a strategic partner” that faces “shared challenges” with Spain, “such as the control of the migratory flow,” the recent response said.
The Spanish government affirmed that Morocco-Spain cooperation in the field of migration is “exemplary […], thanks to its high level of institutionalization, its comprehensive approach […], and its effectiveness, based on the principle of shared responsibility.”
The pacifist discourse the Spanish government used in response to the parliamentary question, which appears to have contained anti-Moroccan rhetoric, proves that Spain is well aware of its need to stay in Morocco’s good graces.
Despite the recent rumors about a rift between the two countries, which intensified because of the double postponement of the high-level Morocco-Spain meeting, initially scheduled for December 2020, the Spanish government appears to maintain a friendly tone towards its southern neighbor.