Spain’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Alfonso Dastis, has once again reassured the Spanish parliament that Morocco is not exploiting the territorial waters of the Canary Islands. According to the Spanish official, “development and prosperity in Morocco are legitimate objectives that Spain should respect and encourage.”
Dastis’ pronouncement was made in the plenary session of the Spanish Congress, as reported by the Spanish news outlet Europa Press on February 7. The minister’s remarks came in response to a question asked by a parliament member from the Podemos Party, Mira Pita.
The parliamentarian urged the minister to use diplomatic powers to “prevent” multinational companies from exploiting the natural resources of a marine area that is considered a “cetacean sanctuary.”
The Podemos parliamentarian claimed that the waters between the cities of Tan-Tan and Sidi, where oil exploration projects are carried out by the Italian company, ENI, belong to the area ‘taken away from the Sahrawi people.” According to the MP, Morocco’s decision to give exploration rights to ENI would “violate the 2005 agreement of delineation of waters between Spain and Morocco.”
To respond to Pita’s accusations against the Moroccan government, Dastis said that Morocco and Spain have not delineated their waters. Instead, both countries are acting in accordance to standard equidistance principles. The minister reinforced his statement by emphasizing that applying this criterion would further prove that the waters are undoubtedly within the jurisdiction of Morocco.
The minister added that the actions of both Spain and Morocco must be in line with international laws, which require respect for the environment, reported Europa Press.
Dastis also recalled his talks held with his Moroccan counterpart, Nasser Bourita, Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs about this issue. Dastis said that he and Bourita both agreed that Morocco wants to “continue to talk about this issue in a spirit of respect and mutual trust.”
Dastis echoed a statement he made in January during a meeting with Canary Islands President Fernando Clavijo, where he reaffirmed that Morocco is not exploiting the Canary Islands waters.
Speaking at the congress, Dastis said the Spanish Embassy in Morocco is “closely monitoring” the issue and diplomats are in contact with local authorities. “The Spanish government is willing to inform the Canarian authorities with transparency as it recently did in a meeting with the regional president, Fernando Clavijo.”