Spanish FM: Spain’s Western Sahara Position Remains Unchanged

Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs Arancha Gonzalez Laya.

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Rabat – The Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs Arancha Gonzalez Laya reiterated on Thursday that Spain’s position on the Western Sahara issue remains unchanged amid the latest developments in the dossier.

“The position of the Spanish government concerning the Sahara is very clear and has not changed in recent hours, days, or weeks,” Gonzalez Laya underlined, according to Morocco’s state media. 

She emphasized that the foreign ministry and the presidency of the government set Spain’s position on the Sahara dispute in their role as the bodies responsible for the country’s external relations.

Speaking to the press at the end of the Council of Ministers of the EAs of the EU, the official stressed that Spain’s position is one of “total support” for the UN-led political process. 

The European country backs the UN’s efforts to “guarantee the maintenance of the ceasefire” and advance “a political negotiation” that allows for a “negotiated, fair, and sustainable” political solution in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions. 

“For Spain, the important thing is the resolutions of the United Nations,” the Spanish foreign minister stated. 

Gonzalez Laya assured that she maintained contact in recent days with Morocco, Mauritania, Algeria, and the UN to promote the path of political dialogue in the wake of recent developments in the region. 

A fragile truce

The head of Spanish diplomacy’s statement comes amid a renewed international focus on the Western Sahara conflict. 

Last week on November 13, Morocco completed a successful, non-offensive military action to secure the Guerguerat border crossing, where elements of the militant Polisario Front had staged a three-week blockade. The blockade of civil and commercial traffic stranded Moroccan truckers at the border post and cut off the flow of goods to Mauritanian markets. 

After the UN failed to persuade Polisario to leave the region, which is included in the MINURSO-monitored buffer zone, Morocco established a security cordon at the crossing. 

The Polisario Front breached the 29-year-old ceasefire with Morocco in response to the non-offensive operation, attacking Moroccan armed forces in Mahbes, a settlement in the buffer zone near the Moroccan defense wall. 

Separatist leaders have also made claims that the Front is mobilizing thousands of volunteers to fight in its “war” against Morocco. Meanwhile, the UN said earlier this week that it is still receiving reports from MINURSO of shots being fired in the buffer zone.

Morocco’s security operation and Polisario’s violation of the ceasefire and international agreements provoked varied responses from international observers, with a host of states voicing their support for Morocco’s decision in Guerguerat. 

Spanish parties and Polisario

Things heated up particularly in Spain, once a stronghold of Polisario support until the Zapatero government (2004-2011) declared the country neutral in the dispute. Some Spanish political parties such as Podemos and the United Left (IU) continue to support the militants and their outdated demands for a referendum in Western Sahara.

Gonzalez Laya’s statement came to remind observers, however, that Spain’s official position is one of neutrality and in favor of the UN-led political process. 

Spain’s Minister of Defense Margarita Robles also emphasized this fact on Thursday. 

Like the foreign minister, Robles stressed that Spain’s official position on the issue is decided by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the presidency of the government.

“Any other member of the government who occupies another post can have an opinion in a personal capacity,” she underlined in statements to the press quoted by Morocco’s state media.

For example, IU party leader Alberto Garzon, who also serves as Spain’s minister of consumption, expressed his party’s support for the Polisario Front in the face of what he describes as Morocco’s “illegal aggression” in Guerguerat. His party is also “convinced of [Sahrawis’] inalienable right to independence and self-determination,” according to an IU statement released last week.

Pro-Polisario parties and officials, however, do not determine Spain’s position on Western Sahara, nor do those who support Morocco’s complete sovereignty over the region.  

As Rboles affirmed: “Any member of the government can have his own opinions, but the government is a collegial body and must be at the forefront of the positions taken.”

Read also: Spanish Diplomat Warns of Polisario Militia’s Growing Terrorist Ideology