Spain, Morocco seek reset of testy relationship at Rabat summit

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  • Spain and Morocco hold first summit in eight years
  • A long and strained relationship over illegal immigration
  • 20 trade and investment agreements to be signed

RABAT (Reuters) – Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said on Monday that the two countries had agreed to resolve their differences. frequent controversy About immigration and territory.

At the summit in Rabat, Sanchez said the two countries signed no fewer than 20 agreements to boost trade and investment, including credit lines of up to €800 million ($873 million).

“We agreed on a commitment to mutual respect, whereby we avoid in our discourse and political practice anything we know will offend the other, especially with respect to our respective areas of sovereignty,” Sanchez said. rice field.

Regular diplomatic crises over Spanish enclaves in Africa, conflicts between Morocco and rebels over Western Sahara, and thousands of illegal immigrants arriving in Spain each year through Morocco.

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Morocco has refused to recognize Spain’s sovereignty over Ceuta and Melilla, but last year the two countries agreed to open their first customs control point in Ceuta.

Madrid says this reflects Rabat’s recognition of the enclave as a foreign territory, but Morocco has changed its longstanding stance that the enclave should be part of its own territory. has not issued an official statement indicating

Sanchez restored friendly relations with Rabat in March 2022 after upending 40 years of former colonial ruler Spain’s policy toward Western Sahara by backing Morocco’s proposal to create an autonomous region.

Making peace between neighbors put Sanchez socialists in some uncomfortable positions.

Last month, members of the European Parliament voted against a European Parliament resolution calling on Morocco to improve its press freedom record. MEP Juan Fernando López said this week that maintaining his cordial neighborliness can sometimes “swallow a toad”.

Spain’s turnaround in Western Sahara angered Algeria, an ally of the Polisario Front. Algeria has suspended trade with Spain and warned it could cut off natural gas flows. Tighter gas connection with Italy.

Spain’s exports to Algeria fell 41% year-on-year to €1 billion ($1.09 billion) in the period January to November 2022, according to the Ministry of Industry. Exports to Morocco increased by 27% to 10.8 billion euros in the same period.

Spain expects to get a sizable share of the 45 billion euros Morocco is expected to invest in improving infrastructure by 2050, Spanish government sources said.

Spanish companies are well-positioned to win concessions in key areas of Rabat’s development plans, including water sanitation and renewable energy, the sources said.

State-owned rail operators Renfe and Adif are working with Moroccan rail operators to develop a new rail line representing a €6 billion business.

Spain is discussing how to remove Morocco from its gray list of money laundering countries, another government source said. A delegation from the Financial Action Task Force, a Paris-based global money laundering and terrorist financing watchdog, visited Morocco last month to announce a decision on whether Morocco can be delisted later this month. It’s a schedule.

In Rabat on Thursday, Moroccan Prime Minister Aziz Akanoush expressed satisfaction with Spain’s support for Morocco’s autonomy plan as the “most credible solution” to settle the Western Sahara dispute, but all sovereignty disputes. did not mention an agreement to set aside the

The joint declaration reiterated Spain’s new position on Western Sahara, but did not mention Spain’s enclave in Morocco. Morocco said it hoped that Spain’s election as the next president of the European Union would serve as a conduit to improve relations with the European Union.

The two countries agreed to cooperate in repatriating illegal immigrants.

($1 = 0.9168 EUR)

Reported by Belén Carreño and Ahmed Eljechtimi. By Charlie Devereux.Edited by Gareth Jones, Aislinn Lane, Nick McPhee, Jonathan Ortiz

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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