The Foreign Minister, José Manuel Albares, has announced a “definitive agreement” between Spain and Morocco to reopen the land borders with Ceuta and Melilla “in the very next few days”. Albares has made this announcement at the end of the summit of the Global Coalition against the Islamic State that was held this Wednesday in the city of Marrakech.
According to the minister, there are still “practical aspects” to be defined because we want it to be in an orderly and gradual manner, so he has not determined the exact date of opening of the steps and customs, something that he has assured will be announced by the Ministry of the Interior. Land borders have been closed for more than two years, in a context in which the bilateral diplomatic crisis and the pandemic have combined.
Among the technical issues that still remain to be resolved are the regulation of cross-border workers, the visa exemption for citizens of Nador and Tetouan and the intention, Albares mentioned, “that atypical trade disappears and that in terms of merchandise we are in the best international standards of transparency”. Some 2,500 people in Ceuta and almost 2,000 in Melilla crossed these steps daily, according to figures provided by the Efe news agency.
It is the second meeting in less than 24 hours between Albares and Burita, whose meetings last night and this Wednesday in the tourist resort of Marrakech stage the reconciliation between Spain and Morocco after Pedro Sánchez’s visit to King Mohamed VI on April 7. Last night, in a joint statement, both representatives gave a good account of the “new stage” in bilateral relations, considering the diplomatic crisis over, which will be a year old in the next few days. The dispute broke out at the end of April 2021 and was only resolved when it became known on March 18 that Sánchez had sent a letter to the Alaouite monarch in which he recognized the autonomy proposal for Western Sahara as “the most serious, credible base and realistic” to resolve the dispute.
These terms were reiterated by the Spanish minister last night in the presence of Burita, adding his support for the efforts of the UN special envoy, Staffan de Mistura.
Albares stressed that the desire to hold the High Level Meeting (RAN) “before the end of the year” and that, he said, “will lead to a new Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation between Spain and Morocco that will embody the new spirit of absence of unilateral actions, mutual respect, mutual benefit and very concrete actions”. In these actions, he has pointed out, the working groups are already involved, highlighting the one on migratory issues. On this issue, the minister highlighted progress: “We have already seen how immigrants entering the Canary Islands have fallen by 70% on the Atlantic façade and that is part of the collaboration of the Spanish and Moroccan security forces, whom I want to congratulate “.
Next June, the minister pointed out, a meeting of the working group on the delimitation of maritime spaces will be held in Spain after more than 15 years of inactivity.
Albares has avoided talking about the Pegasus scandal despite the insistent questions of the Spanish journalists present in Marrakech. “International relations are based on facts and not on conjecture,” he said about the suspicions that hang over espionage on the mobile phones of President Sánchez and several of his ministers in the midst of a diplomatic crisis with Morocco.
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