After Western Sahara, the Covid-19 triggers a new quarrel between Rabat and Madrid

Morocco’s deliberate choice to repatriate some of its nationals stranded in Europe because of Covid-19 via Portugal rather than Spain triggered, Tuesday, December 21, a new diplomatic pass between Rabat and Madrid.

On December 13, the Moroccan government authorized ” exceptionally “ Moroccans living abroad to return to their country from Portugal, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, an operation which is due to end on 23 December. On Monday evening, the health ministry said it had decided to organize repatriation flights from Portugal – and not Spain – because of “The lack of respect for health protocols” by the Spanish authorities.

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“This decision is explained by the absence of tangible guarantees concerning the respect of the measures already taken, including the control of the vaccination pass and the state of health of the passengers, according to a firm, appropriate approach and in accordance with the recommendations and internationally recognized rules ”, explained the Moroccan ministry. “The competent Spanish authorities are far from ensuring rigorous action to control the state of health of passengers when boarding at airports”, he accused, believing that this situation represents “A danger to the health of Moroccan citizens”. According to the ministry, many cases of Covid-19 infection have been detected in people from Spain via private flights, either on arrival or during transit.

According to Spanish online media The confidential, well informed on these questions, Madrid reacted by summoning the Moroccan charge d’affaires, Farid Aoulouhaj on Tuesday. Contacted by AFP, the Spanish foreign ministry declined to comment.

New infections increased by 50% in one week

But during a press conference on Tuesday, the head of diplomacy strongly denounced the Moroccan declaration. “The public statement is not acceptable from Spain’s point of view, because it does not correspond to any reality, reacted José Manuel Albares. Spain meets all the international criteria in the fight against Covid, the government is working tirelessly on it. “” It is not acceptable and it is not based on any objective reality. This is what I will let Morocco know ”, continued Mr. Albares, adding that “The interests of Spain will always be defended”.

The minister clarified that he had not been warned of the Moroccan press release before its publication and assured that Spain is working “With all his good will” to maintain “The best relations with Morocco”.

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In May, a major crisis had soured relations between Rabat and Madrid following hospitalization in Spain, for “Humanitarian reasons”, of the leader of the Saharawi separatists of the Polisario Front, Brahim Ghali, considered by Morocco as a “War criminal”. At the heart of the quarrel – which persists – is the question of Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony, which for decades has pitted Morocco against the Polisario Front, supported by Algeria. Thus, the Moroccan ambassador to Spain, Karima Benyaich, has still not returned to her post in Madrid.

Thousands of Moroccans have been stranded abroad following the authorities’ decision to extend at least until December 31 the suspension of passenger flights to and from Morocco due to the spread of the Omicron variant and the resurgence of the pandemic in Europe. According to the health ministry, the number of new infections has increased by 50% in one week, although the death toll and severe or critical cases remains stable. “The risk of a resumption of the epidemic is very probable”, the ministry warned on Tuesday.

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The World with AFP

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After Western Sahara, the Covid-19 triggers a new quarrel between Rabat and Madrid