Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez met with Moroccan King Mohamed VI during an Iftar banquet in the royal residence in Rabat on Thursday, signaling the end of diplomatic tensions centered on Morocco’s disputed region of Western Sahara.
Sanchez had arrived earlier in Morocco for a visit to the Kingdom at the invitation of the King.
The Spanish PM is the first European official to be received by the Moroccan King since the start of COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
The visit aims to revive diplomatic relations that have been severed between the two countries for nearly a year, only after Madrid changed its position on the Sahara conflict in favor of Rabat.
Observers said that holding a royal Iftar in honor of the Spanish Prime Minister marks the importance of the visit.
Sanchez is accompanied by Spain's Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares, who was expected in Morocco last week before a decision was taken to postpone his trip, replacing it by a higher level of representation.
On Thursday, the King renewed his call to inaugurate a new stage in relations between the two countries.
In a statement Thursday evening, the Moroccan royal palace said the two men had “reaffirmed their desire to open a new phase in relations between the two countries, based on mutual respect and trust, ongoing consultation and honest cooperation.”
Addressing journalists after his meal with the king, Sanchez hailed the “historic moment”.
He said they had agreed “a clear roadmap that allows the management of matters of interest in a concerted manner, in a spirit of normality and good neighborliness, without room for unilateral acts.”
He also said the countries would work to restore normal border traffic between Morocco and Ceuta as well as the nearby Spanish enclave of Melilla.
Spain is considered Morocco’s first trading partner, and the two countries are linked to the file of combating illegal migration as Madrid relies on Rabat to stop illegal immigrants, most of whom depart from the North African nation.
It is also expected that the return of relations between the two countries will speed up the opening of their borders to resume the transportation of travelers, especially during the summer vacation period.
Morocco is also trying to stop the flow of smuggled goods from the two cities of Ceuta and Melilla, which are controlled by Spain.
Among other common issues between the two countries is the demarcation of maritime borders, and cooperation in the field of energy.
Morocco became dependent on the import of liquefied natural gas through Spain, after an Algerian decision not to renew a gas supply contract with Rabat last October.
Spain had announced early this year that Morocco will be able to obtain liquefied natural gas (LNG) on the international markets, bring it to a regasification plant on the Spanish mainland and use the Gaz-Maghreb-Europe (GME) pipeline to transport it to its territory.
Lately, relations have improved between the two countries after Spain announced in a letter to the King in March its support for Morocco’s autonomy plan “as the most serious, realistic and credible basis for settling the dispute” over the Western Sahara.
The letter reflected a shift in Spanish policy in favor of Morocco’s claim to Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony that Morocco considers its own but where the Algeria-backed Polisario Front seeks to establish its own state.
Madrid had angered Morocco by allowing the leader of Western Sahara's independence movement into Spain for hospital treatment for a severe case of Covid-19, sparking a tetchy standoff between the two countries.