Morocco raises Catalan question in diplomatic spat with Spain

Spanish stance on Western Sahara cited as "root" of recent crisis 

Dozens of migrants attempting to cross the Morocco-Spain border at Ceuta on May 18, 2021 (by Jon Nazca/Reuters)
Dozens of migrants attempting to cross the Morocco-Spain border at Ceuta on May 18, 2021 (by Jon Nazca/Reuters) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

June 2, 2021 09:25 AM

Moroccan officials have raised the topic of Catalan independence during their ongoing diplomatic dispute with Spain. 

In a statement, the Moroccan foreign ministry drew parallels between the situation in Catalonia and that of Western Sahara. 

They accused Spain of double standards, saying it was "encouraging separatism at the neighbor's house" while "fighting it at home." 

Spain and Morocco have been at odds since it emerged that Brahim Ghali, a leading figure in the Western Sahara independence movement, was being treated for Covid-19 in a hospital in Logroño in northern Spain – yet, on Tuesday, he left the medical center and Spain for Algeria.

In what has been seen as a form of retaliation, Morocco appeared to subsequently relax its border controls, enabling thousands of migrants to enter Ceuta, one of two Spanish enclaves on the north African coast. 

"The root of the problem"

"The root of the problem," Monday's statement from Morocco's foreign ministry said, is Spain's "hostile" stance with regard to Western Sahara. 

Morocco reminded its Mediterranean neighbor of its "clear and firm" support for the "territorial integrity and national unity" of the Spanish state during the Catalan independence push. 

"Morocco has not chosen neutrality," the statement continued, revealing that in recent years Morocco has, at Spain's request, refused to receive Catalan leaders "at the highest level". It went on to pose the question: "How, in this context, can Morocco trust Spain again?"  

"No better ally"

The Spanish president Pedro Sánchez described the statement from the Moroccan government as "unacceptable." 

Sánchez didn't refer to the comments on Catalonia but warned Morocco that it "has no better ally within the EU than Spain." 

Morocco's comments come just a few months after Russia cited the issue of Catalan independence after the EU demanded the release of opposition leader Alexei Navalny.