Spain and Morocco make show of unity despite recent double crisis

Foreign ministers address cavers’ deaths and court prosecution in joint press conference

José Manuel García-Margallo (left) and Salaheddine Mezouar in Barcelona on Monday.
José Manuel García-Margallo (left) and Salaheddine Mezouar in Barcelona on Monday.Albert García

Spain and Morocco made a show of unity on Monday to prove that their bilateral relations will not be affected by recent adverse developments, including the death of two Spanish cavers in the High Atlas mountains and a Spanish court’s decision to prosecute 11 Moroccan officials over genocide claims in Western Sahara.

“Morocco views Spain as a strategic ally and that view is not going to change,” said Moroccan Foreign Minister Salaheddine Mezouar after meeting with his Spanish counterpart, José Manuel García-Margallo.

Mezouar chose to attend the EU-Mediterranean summit in Barcelona on Monday even though he had not been scheduled to go, as further evidence that diplomatic ties have not been damaged.

It is both our governments’ desire for the investigation into the cavers’ deaths to end as quickly as possible” Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo

Both ministers gave a joint press conference to offer their condolences to the relatives of the spelunkers who died after an accident during an expedition in southern Morocco. A survivor described the rescue effort as a botched job by the Moroccan government, and the families have announced legal action.

But Mezouar and Margallo fell back on the legal inquiry that has been opened in Morocco.

“We will wait for the results of the investigation, and see what responsibilities are derived from it,” said Margallo. “It is both our governments’ desire for [the investigation] to end as quickly as possible.”

Regarding the criminal prosecution of 11 high-ranking military officials from Morocco over genocide claims in the former Spanish colony of Western Sahara, Margallo again expressed respect for the courts, while Mezouar wondered why the issue was being brought up now but chose to blame the Spanish High Court, rather than the Spanish government itself.

Those who are always trying to create problems between our countries are wasting their time”

Salaheddine Mezouar, Moroccan foreign minister

“Morocco will defend itself with legality and veracity,” he said. “Those who are always trying to create problems between our countries are wasting their time.”

Rabat is concerned about an extension to the United Nations Mission in Western Sahara, which the Security Council is due to vote on this month. Spain sits on the Council. Morocco defends an “advanced autonomy” for the region as the only solution that will guarantee stability.

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