This additional delay, announced by Madrid this Saturday, April 30, aims to “Finalize the details of their next reopening”.
Suspended during the first wave of the pandemic in the spring of 2020, these border crossings, which remained closed due to the diplomatic crisis of 2021, were to reopen “Saturday April 30 at midnight”, says the Spanish Ministry of the Interior. But, according to the order published in the Official Bulletin, the closure of the border with Morocco will be extended by “15 days, so that the conditions for the gradual and orderly reopening of the border posts at the entry and exit of Ceuta and Melilla are concluded”. It is “finalize all the details and mechanisms that govern the reopening of land borders”continued the Ministry of the Interior, which indicates in its press release that it has “reinforced the police force” in both enclaves.
The end of a diplomatic crisis
On March 18, Madrid put an end to almost a year of diplomatic crisis after having made a reversal on the question of Western Sahara and recognized the Moroccan autonomy plan for this disputed territory. Caused by the reception in Spain of the Sahrawi separatist leader of the Polisario Brahim Ghali, to be treated there for Covid, the quarrel between Rabat and Madrid had led to the arrival in May 2021 of more than 10,000 migrants in Ceuta in 24 hours, at favor of a relaxation of controls on the Moroccan side.
The reconciliation between Spain and Morocco was sealed in early April with the visit to Rabat of Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, when the two neighboring countries decided to“inaugurate a new stage” of their partnership. “One of the first objectives will be the restoration of the circulation of goods and merchandise at the border crossings of Ceuta and Melilla”, had then promised the Spanish leader. Maritime links for their part resumed on April 12 with the arrival in Tangier of the first ferry from Spain for two years.
An old conflict between Algeria and Morocco
The Western Sahara conflict – a vast desert territory rich in phosphates and with waters full of fish – has pitted Morocco against the Sahrawi separatists of the Polisario Front, supported by Algeria, for decades. While Rabat advocates a status of autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty, the Polisario calls for a self-determination referendum under the aegis of the UN.