The Government tries to calm the unanimous criticism for the turn of the Sahara: “We do not hide anything”

  • Sánchez returns to Ceuta and Melilla to visualize the end of the crisis with Rabat and justifies in the security and immigration the woven agreement with Morocco

  • Albares still does not confirm if there was previous contact with Algeria, but stresses that is a “reliable” partner. He does not fear punishment: “He always respects his gas contracts”

In the legislature of the gaseous times, of the convulsion and the constant shock, Pedro Sánchez is now going through, perhaps, his moment of greatest loneliness. With social protest burning in the streets, the opposition, left and right, are urging him to take measures to curb the impact of rising energy prices. But it is also close to him and marks him by the historical twist on the Sahara, the abandonment of sustained neutrality for almost 47 yearsa turn criticized also from within the Government, by its coalition partners, United We Can.

That feeling of isolation was projected without duplicity this Wednesday in Congress, in the first plenary session and in the appearance of Minister José Manuel Albares in the Foreign Affairs Commission. The groups reproached both for the forms, for not having counted on them, for not giving details, as well as the sudden change. Both accusations were denied by the Executive. “We do not hide anything“said the head of diplomacy, and Spain promised, “will not abandon” to the Saharawis.

Sánchez avoided the references that the PP and ERC fired at him in the control session with the argument that it is reserved for his appearance in plenary session on March 30. But later he flew to Ceuta and Melilla, ten months after the outbreak of the migratory wave, and accompanied by the two presidents of the autonomous cities —Juan Vivas (PP) and Eduardo de Castro (former Cs) do support the “new stage” —. There he did answer questions for the first time. He argued that the pact with the Alaouite kingdom is also the guarantee for the “territorial integrity” of Ceuta and Melilla. Security in both, he insisted, “has prevailed” in the work of these months to close a crisis that was already “unsustainable.”

The minister maintains that at all times Spain has remained within the “UN framework & rdquor; and defending “international legality & rdquor ;, for which he supports the work of the special envoy for the former colony, Staffan de Mistura

However, that was not the axis of discussion in Madrid, in the lower house. It was the Sahara. The agreement with Rabat by which the Government clearly opts for the autonomy proposal offered by Morocco in 2007, considering it as the “most serious, credible and realistic basis” for the “resolution” of the conflict. The Executive has hidden the details of the negotiation all this time, a fact for which the opposition severely reprimanded it, and also United We Can. Nor did he enter into many concretions this Wednesday, although it did transcend, via ‘El País’, the full content of the letter that Sánchez sent to King Mohamed VI. There were no surprises, but at least it was known that it was dated March 14, four days before the Moroccan Royal Cabinet made it public. Albares used the letter as proof that Spain has not broken away from the “UN framework” and international legality.

Because right now

The minister went to Congress on Wednesday with the idea of ​​selling the benefits of the new stage with Rabat to the groups, and he even made it ugly for them that this issue was not the reason for his questions. The Government has deployed in recent days an argument that is difficult to digest, trying to deny that it has changed its position. No group bought it (not even the purple ones) and even the head of Foreign Affairs missed the concept of “change” and he himself and the president himself openly used the “deepening“.

Sánchez’s letter to Mohamed is from March 14, four days before it was made public. Albares denies a radical turn, but recognizes a “deepening & rdquor; of the historical position and “change & rdquor;

But the swerve has been so surprising that it has triggered speculation about the commitments that our country has acquired with Morocco and the reasons why the diplomatic conflict is ending precisely now. The Polisario Front believes that the war in Ukraine has been used to make it go more unnoticed. The Government has come to wield just the opposite: that with the uncertainty that the Russian invasion has caused in Europe, it cannot have so many open fronts. The reality is that the chosen moment has generated even more confusion. The problems with Rabat are over, but the direct consequence has been the increase in tension with Algeriawho has called his ambassador in Madrid, Said Moussi, for consultations.

This reaction does not seem to worry the Executive much, despite the fact that this country is Spain’s second gas supplier and that one of the great open debates in the EU after the attack on Ukraine, and even before, due to the rise in gas prices, is that Europe cannot depend on Moscow for energy. That is why in Spanish politics the question of how the Government now dares to ‘bother’ Algeria has resonated with force. The truth is that there is no fear that Algiers will penalize Spain because it is a “gas supplier that has always respected its contracts.” “It is a solid, reliable and strategic partner“Defended Albares in Congress. The seriousness of Algeria as an energy supplier is something that Polisario sources also highlight to this newspaper.

The Executive has not yet clarified if it previously notified this country of the reconciliation that it has sealed with Morocco. But this Wednesday the minister did underline that there have been no contacts with Germanywhat last month it folded in a similar way to Rabat’s wishes to strengthen its position on the Sahara, and that it did not advance its plan to the US either.

“You are alone”

But the Executive is trying to turn the page and is already focused on the visit that Albares will make next week, on April 1, to Rabat, to address the new bilateral relationship and prepare the next trip that, still without a date, the President of the Government will do to Morocco. For this first visit, the minister has already agreed with his counterpart, Nasser Buritathe issues to be discussed: “The complete normalization of maritime connections” and the Operation Crossing the Strait (OPE), and the “restoration, in a controlled manner, of the movement of people and goods” between the two countries. Rabat unilaterally closed the borders of Ceuta and Melilla in March 2020, due to the pandemic, and has not allowed its reopening, despite the fact that the health situation has improved. Spain also wants to activate, “Work groups” sets to “go in all relations beyond what already existed.” For the Government, the control of migratory flows, the fight against drug trafficking, jihadism and organized crime is key.

The minister outlines with his counterpart the agenda of his trip on April 1: the “complete normalization” of air and sea connections with Morocco and the Crossing of the Strait

The groups were very forceful in their criticism of the turn decided “unilaterally” by Sánchez. They accused Albares of “obscurantism” and “claudication” (Valentina Martínez Ferro, PP); from “hide something” (Marta Rosique, ERC); of forgetting “the commitments, the historical responsibilities, human rights and human relations with the Saharawis” (Aitor Esteban, PNV); of having plunged Spain into a “triple crisis”, with Algeria , the Polisario and with the parties (Jon Iñárritu, EH Bildu), of not being “trustworthy” for a key partner like Algiers and of having aligned himself with an “autocrat”, as the purple deputy Gerardo Pisarello reproached him.

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The Foreign Affairs Committee certainly projected an image of an isolated PSOE. That “you are alone” that Rosique launched at him. Even more pupa: “If we did a vote by show of hands right now, he could not go to Rabat.” “He does not have the backing of this Parliament,” agreed Esteban. composure and “categorically” denied the 180-degree turn that the opposition was throwing at him and denied that there was any “hidden spring or drawer.”We do not hide anythingwe are not going against the UN resolutions, I guarantee that,” he stressed.

The Government denies that the Western Sahara will be discussed during Albares’ trip. If the Foreign Ministry is now focusing on something, it is that it will be the UN special envoy, Staffan de Mistura, who must “propose a mutually acceptable solution” to the parties. The Executive does not admit that its recognition of the Moroccan autonomy plan is a boost to Rabat and limits itself to pointing out that Spain wants to stop being a “spectator” to take an “active part” in the resolution of the dispute: “The The Saharawi population in the camps also needs a response”. In fact, the minister hid himself yesterday in that the Government’s objective has been to “defend the interests of Spain” and put an end to the crisis. “If anyone believes that there is an alternative policy “, said the minister, among other issues, to put an end to the mafias that traffic in human beings, “let him say it“.