The situation has been very tense between Morocco and Spain for some time, especially over the Western Sahara issue. The sudden arrival of thousands of migrants from the Cherifian kingdom in Ceuta and Melilla comes against the background of a major diplomatic crisis between the two countries. The Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Arancha Gonzalez, summoned the Moroccan ambassador Karima Benyaich on Tuesday. Nothing has filtered out of the exchange.
In an interview with Spanish public radio, Arancha Gonzalez admitted that Brahim Ghali’s hospitalisation in Spain was the cause of the « migration crisis » in Ceuta. « We did not start this escalation and we are not going to fuel it, » said the Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation.
Asked about the channels of dialogue launched with Morocco to resolve the crisis, the Spanish head of diplomacy said that « all channels are open », but she did not wish to confirm a role for King Felipe VI of Spain in these mediation efforts. However, the Spanish monarch had asked, during his visit to Morocco in February 2019, King Mohammed VI « to strengthen collaboration in order to curb the arrival of irregular migrants in Spain ».
Following this intervention, migrant arrivals on the Spanish coast in 2019 had fallen by 50% compared to 2018, according to official figures. Arancha Gonzalez revealed that she had advised the Moroccan ambassador, Karima Benyaich, when she was summoned yesterday (Tuesday), to « look to the future and that means first of all that events like those recorded in the last few hours do not happen again ». « But we are going to be firm in defending territorial integrity, security and order, » she said.
Spain is now looking to the European Union for support in its open crisis with Morocco. « Spain has been working for years to bring the Union closer to its southern neighbourhood, while the eastern neighbourhood has a special weight within the EU. Spain, along with Italy and Greece, is inviting Europe to turn towards the South, » emphasises Arancha Gonzalez. A plea that is not devoid of political calculation. « It is in this context that we are seeking a solution to the crisis with our neighbour, » she added.