Diplomatic crisis

Morocco to Spain: "You can't fight separatism at home and encourage it in your neighbour's house"

Rabat recalls that it vetoed Carles Puigdemont's visit in 2017 and says it is not enough to prosecute the Sahrawi leader

Cristina Mas
3 min
A group of people trying to cross the border between Spain and Morocco.

BarcelonaIt is not enough for Morocco that the Sahrawi leader Brahim Ghali, who was hospitalised in Logroño on April 17 to be treated for covid-19, will appear tomorrow before the Spanish High Court and makes it clear that the diplomatic crisis with Spain, which has had the most visible side in the entry of thousands of people into Ceuta two weeks ago, is not because of one person. It is because the Spanish government, unlike powers like the United States or France, continues not to recognise Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara. In a statement issued this afternoon, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nasser Bourita, calls the intentions of Spain towards Western Sahara "hostile", and compares Sahrawi independence to Catalan independence. The Alawite regime recalls that it has always stood by Madrid in the face of Catalan independence and accuses the Spanish government of not reciprocating.

"This crisis raises a question of coherence. We cannot fight separatism at home and encourage it in our neighbour's house," the statement said, in which Morocco claims that "it has never instrumentalised separatism". "During the Catalan crisis, Morocco did not opt for neutrality, but was one of the first to side with the territorial integrity and national unity of its northern neighbour in a clear and forceful manner," recalls the head of Moroccan diplomacy. The ministry wonders what Spain's reaction would have been if a representative of Catalan separatism had been received at the Moroccan Royal Palace. And it does not miss the opportunity to recall the episode of 2012 when, at the request of the Spanish government - then in the hands of the PP - the programme of the visit of a delegation of Catalan businessmen led by president Artur Mas was changed so that he would not be received "at a high level". It also recalls how in 2017 it rejected the request for a visit "of a great leader of Catalan separatism", in reference to president Carles Puigdemont, whom the Moroccan authorities refused to receive on the grounds that "he had to arrange visits with the Spanish government". Morocco elevates this loyalty between states to the category of "the very principle of a true partnership" and assures that "it is entitled to expect no less from Spain". Rabat also claims that "it has forbidden all contact between the Moroccan consulate in Barcelona and the Catalan separatist movement".

Ghali before the National Court

In this way Rabat makes it clear that the crisis does not end with Ghali's appearance before the Audiencia Nacional, where Judge Santiago Pedraz has summoned him to respond to accusations of crimes against humanity, in a hearing that could lead to a trial. Two entities accuse him of the disappearance of Saharawi citizens and dissidents in the refugee camps of Tindouf since 1979. Morocco claims that Ghali entered Spain with a false passport and the Spanish government has limited itself to saying that it had authorised his visit for humanitarian reasons. Morocco makes it clear: "The crisis is not limited to one man. It does not begin with his arrival, nor will it end when he leaves. It is above all a question of trust and mutual respect between countries"

Sánchez: "Spain is the essential interlocutor within the European Union for Morocco"

On the other hand, Spanish President Pedro Sánchez has taken Rabat's criticisms to heart and recalled that "Spain is an essential interlocutor within the EU" for Morocco. He also considered it "absolutely unacceptable" that the neighbouring country "attacked Spain's borders because of disagreements in foreign policy", in reference to the migratory crisis, reports Ot Serra.

In the background what is on the table is the strengthening of Morocco's international position since Donald Trump's United States, contravening UN legality, recognised Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara, in exchange for Rabat normalising its relations with Israel. Since then, Spain and Germany are the EU countries that most openly clash with Rabat's policy on the former Spanish colony.