Spain and Morocco hold first summit in eight years

Western Sahara tension
Western Sahara tension Copyright JON NAZCA/REUTERS
Copyright JON NAZCA/REUTERS
By Euronews with Reuters with Reuters
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Spain and Morocco hold their first summit in eight years as they seek to strengthen economic ties and build on a diplomatic truce.

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Spain and Morocco are holding their first summit for eight years as they seek to strengthen their economic ties.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and 12 members of his cabinet will meet their counterparts in Rabat to sign up to 20 agreements aimed at boosting trade and investment.

The two countries are building on a diplomatic truce reached last year following disputes over migration and territory.

Morocco is Spain's biggest trade partner with trade between the two countries worth 17bn euros in 2022.

There have been regular diplomatic crises between the two countries, most recently the storming by 8,000 migrants of Spain's north African enclave of Ceuta in 2021 after Morocco relaxed border controls.

Sanchez restored relations with Rabat in March 2022 after he reversed a 40-year policy on the Western Sahara by backing Morocco's proposal to create an autonomous region.

Spain relies on Morocco to control migration by Moroccans and sub-Saharan Africans seeking to cross the European Union's southernmost border.

Last June Morocco's law enforcement officers put down an attempted mass border crossing into Melilla, Spain's other North African enclave, in a move that left at least 23 people dead and scores injured.

An investigation into that incident remains open, but Madrid has hailed a general drop in migration numbers, both to the Spanish archipelago and via the Western Mediterranean route.

Illegal arrivals to the Canary Islands fell 30% in 2022 from a year earlier, the Interior Ministry said.

Sanchez's Socialist party recently voted against a resolution in the European Parliament to call on Morocco to improve its record on press freedom.

Juan Fernando Lopez, an MEP for the Socialist Party, said that compromises were sometimes necessary to maintain cordial relations with a neighbour, arguing that "if you have to swallow a toad, you swallow it".

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