Tensions reignite between Spain and Morocco over Ceuta and Melilla

Ceuta and Melilla are the source of newly heightened tensions between Madrid and Rabat. Following Rabat’s protest against the remarks made by Margaritas Schinas, the “Sanchez government” responded to the Kingdom by highlighting how unmistakably “Spanish” the two towns were.

According to statements made by Jose Emmanuel Albaris, the foreign minister of Spain, “the Spanish borders are known and clear,” and “the cities of Melilla and Ceuta are internationally recognized as Spanish.”

This response from the Spanish government is in light of the “election battles” against the right wing, which won the successful outcomes it had been striving for during the local elections and demonstrated a blatant advantage in polling places throughout numerous Spanish towns.

As a result, Pedro Sanchez, the head of Spain’s central government, called early elections for the country’s legislature in July of next year.

A fleeting storm

After the phases of “clear serenity” and “close rapprochement” in the previous period, have relations between the two parties risen to another level of tensions?

Abdelali Barouki, a university professor specializing in Moroccan-Spanish relations, answers, saying that “the current developments between the two parties cannot be considered a crisis , because the debate over Moroccan Ceuta and Melilla was and is still headed in the same direction.

Barouki added, in an interview with Hespress, that “Rabat and Madrid agreed during the recent bilateral summit not to raise any sensitive issue regarding the Ceuta and Melilla file.”

Morocco is completely committed to this agreement, as evidenced by the fact that Rabat’s protest notice was written to Margaritis Schinas, the European deputy commissioner in charge of migration, rather than the Spanish government.

The same spokesperson went on to say, “The problem of Melilla and Ceuta is of the utmost significance to Morocco, as the Kingdom has repeatedly highlighted that the two cities are, by proof of history, unmistakably Moroccan.

What is going on now is merely ordinary business between the two countries, just a “passing cloud,” and Spain has reasonably conceded to Morocco’s claims on multiple occasions.

The same professor says, “Albaris’ quick and furious response came in the context of his desire to gain electoral points for his government, against the prevailing right-wing glow in the elections,” before adding, “The Spanish government raised the issue first for fear that their rival right would be in power Elections are the first to talk about.”

Electoral fever

According to journalist and expert on Spanish issues Abdelhamid Bajouki, “the Ceuta and Melilla file is not a priority for Madrid and Rabat, but as it coincides with the Spanish electoral campaign, it is currently a pressing issue for the Spanish government.”

In a statement, Bajouki added that “the Spanish foreign minister was required to respond to Morocco, so that Spain’s right-wing will not exploit his inaction to their advantage in the elections; However, his statements do not indicate that the two sides have entered a new phase of tension.”

The same expert adds that “the two countries have established a common path for cooperation and solidarity, and Rabat is a priority for the Moncloa Palace,” and emphasizes that “the recent bilateral summit between the two parties took care to avoid raising sensitive issues, in an effort to maintain the good atmosphere between them.”

“Morocco’s presence in the Spanish election campaign is natural,” the reporter said, “but most Spanish parties this year tacitly agree not to raise any sensitive issues between the two countries, fully aware of the importance of establishing good relations with their southern neighbor.”

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