19th April 2024
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Sánchez meets with Moroccan king and praises ‘exemplary cooperation’ on migration

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez met with Moroccan King Mohammed VI on Wednesday, praising the ‘exemplary cooperation’ between the two countries on managing migration.

Sánchez addressed reporters alone at a news conference in Morocco’s capital, without the presence of the king or Moroccan Prime Minister Aziz Akhannouch, after his meetings with Moroccan officials.

Sánchez’s remarks on migration came as Spain and Morocco deal with a spike in migration to the Canary Islands. Morocco has in recent years worked to prevent border crossings to Spain’s two North African enclaves, Ceuta and Melilla, and boat crossings through the Strait of Gibraltar. ALSO READ: Over 1,000 migrants reach the Canary Islands in 18 boats over the past 3 days.

But this year, boat landings on the Canary Islands, about 100 kilometres off the Moroccan coastline, have increased. Most of the boats come from Mauritania, with Morocco attempting to intercept those that pass through its waters en route. Spain’s Interior Ministry reported 11,704 migrants had arrived to the Canaries as of 15 February — over a sixfold increase from a year earlier. ALSO READ: Over 6,600 migrants died or disappeared trying to reach Spain last year.

Sánchez said that Spain is ‘perfectly satisfied’ with its cooperation with Morocco in the fight against irregular migration, and expressed his will to further promote this cooperation. ALSO READ: Spain, Morocco sign 20 agreements on migration, investment, energy & education.

Sánchez also reiterated Spain’s position in support of Morocco’s autonomy plan regarding the disputed Western Sahara and called for a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war, which began in October.

‘We must also guarantee access to humanitarian aid. The work the UNRWA in the Middle East is fundamental, and Spain has been defending this,’ Sánchez said in Rabat, referring to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees. ALSO READ: Spain and Ireland seek economic sanctions if Israel breaching obligations.

Last month, Israel said that 12 of UNRWA’s employees took part in the 7 October attack by Hamas, prompting the United States and other donors to suspend funding to the agency. Israel has called for UNRWA to be disbanded, but no other UN agencies or aid groups are capable of immediately replacing it. ALSO READ: Spain to increase its funding for UNRWA as other donors suspend aid.

Spain and Morocco maintain close business and political ties as Moroccans make up the single largest foreign community in Spain. Spain serves as Morocco’s largest foreign investor. Sánchez last visited Morocco in February 2023, but didn’t meet with king Mohammed.

In Wednesday’s news conference, Sánchez also reiterated Spain’s two-year-old position on Morocco’s claims to the disputed Western Sahara. Spain’s move to back Morocco’s plan caused relations to warm, and Spain was one of five countries that Morocco accepted assistance from in the aftermath of its September earthquake.

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