Morocco scolds Spain for receiving the leader of the Polisario
RABAT, Morocco (AP) — Morocco’s Foreign Affairs Ministry summoned the Spanish ambassador last Sunday to convey the government’s “regret” over Spain’s decision to receive for medical treatment the leader of a regional group fighting Morocco for independence.
Spanish officials revealed last week that Brahim Ghali, 73, is hospitalized in Spain for treatment of COVID-19.
Ghali heads the Polisario Front, which has long fought for the independence from Morocco of Western Sahara, periodically engaging the Moroccan armed forces.
Spain’s stance is “inconsistent with the spirit of partnership”
The Moroccan foreign ministry said Spain’s stance is “inconsistent with the spirit of partnership and good neighborliness.” Morocco is seeking an explanation of Spain’s position, the ministry said.
The diplomatic tension between Rabat and Madrid comes as Spain seeks Morocco’s cooperation in stemming the flow of migrants across the sea to Spanish territory. The Spanish government is also seeking to deepen economic ties with Africa.
An official from Spain’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said last week that Ghali had been taken in “for strictly humanitarian reasons.”
Western Sahara stretches along Africa’s Atlantic coast south of the Moroccan resort city of Agadir, and borders Algeria and Mauritania. It has a population of 600,000 people. It was colonized by Spain in the 19th century and annexed by Morocco in 1975.
The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, the self-declared government also led by Ghali, says he is “recovering favorably” in an unidentified Spanish hospital.
MADRID (AP) — Former U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration announced last year that it would open a consulate in Western Sahara following the decision to recognize Morocco’s sovereignty over the region.
The disputed territory was central to a deal announced by Trump before leaving office to establish diplomatic ties between Morocco and Israel.
The region stretches along Africa’s Atlantic coast south of the Moroccan resort city of Agadir, and borders Algeria and Mauritania. Roughly the size of Colorado, it has a population of about 600,000 people, according to the United Nations. The area was colonized by Spain in the 19th century, and was annexed by Morocco in 1975.
Some countries recognize Western Sahara as independent, some support Morocco’s claims on the land, and others back a long-running U.N. effort to seek a negotiated solution.
The territory is home to one of the U.N.’s longest-running peacekeeping forces, in place since 1991 to monitor a cease-fire and help prepare for a referendum on the territory’s future — which has never taken place.
Morocco has proposed wide-ranging autonomy for Western Sahara, but the Polisario Front says the local population has the right to a referendum.
Fighting occasionally flares up, most recently in November last year, when the Moroccan military launched an operation in the U.N.-patrolled Guerguerat border zone to clear a road that it said was blocked by Polisario supporters.
Associated Press writer Josef Federman in Jerusalem contributed to this report. Read More International News