| 23 May 2024, Thursday |

Morocco to return envoy to Spain after Madrid shifts stance on Western Sahara, Madrid source says

According to a Spanish government source, Morocco’s ambassador to Spain will return to Madrid after Spain clarified its support for Rabat’s autonomy proposal for Western Sahara.

In May 2021, Ambassador Karima Benyaich was summoned to Morocco in protest of Madrid admitting a Western Sahara independence leader for medical treatment using Algerian documents. Morocco stated that it had not been informed in advance.

Spain told Morocco on Friday that it considered Rabat’s autonomy proposal for Western Sahara to be “serious, credible, and realistic,” according to the Rabat government, in a move that is expected to end the diplomatic standoff.

The language reflected a shift in Spanish policy towards the dispute in Western Sahara, a territory that Morocco considers its own but where the Polisario independence movement backed by its neighbour Algeria demands a sovereign state.

A Spanish government source told Reuters that Benyaich was now set to return to her post in Madrid. Officials at Morocco’s foreign ministry were not immediately available to comment.

On Saturday, Algeria said it would withdraw its ambassador to Madrid in protest at Spain’s support for the Moroccan autonomy plan.

Rabat says its 2007 proposal to offer Western Sahara autonomy within Morocco is the most it can do as a political solution to the conflict.

For years most countries including Spain had backed the idea of a referendum to resolve the issue – which was agreed as part of the 1991 ceasefire and is the solution demanded by the Polisario.

But no agreement was reached on how the referendum would be held and in recent years even the United Nations has ceased referring to the idea of a vote, speaking instead of seeking a realistic, mutually acceptable solution based on compromise.

  • Reuters