The King and Queen of Spain visited Ceuta and Melilla on Monday and Tuesday of this week in the first visit by ruling Spanish monarchs to the colonies in northern Africa since before Franco. Morocco disputes the right of Spain to govern both Ceuta and Melilla, in much the same way as Spain disputes British sovereignty of Gibraltar. The Spanish royals were acclaimed in a flurry of flags and patriotism by over half of both provinces’ populations while protests organized by Moroccans (who regarded the visit as highly provocative) forced gates on the road at the border between Morocco and Melilla to be closed.
King of Morocco calls Spanish Royal Visit to Ceuta and Melilla regrettable
In his speech to commemorate the 32nd anniversary of the ‘Green March’ the King of Morocco, Mohamed VI, spoke mainly about the negotiations over Western Sahara which was annexed by Morocco in 1975. He said that Morocco wouldn’t accept anything other than complete autonomy for this area.
However, in a communication to the press made earlier Mohamed VI criticised the Spanish royal visit to Ceuta and Melilla calling it a ‘step backwards’ and an ‘attack on the patriotic feelings of the citizens of Morocco’. He said that the Spanish authorities needed to take responsibility for the consequences of the visit which could endanger the future evolution of relations between Spain and Morocco.
Mohamed VI also said that the visit constituted ‘a flagrant lack of respect by the Spanish government’ and went against the Friendship and Cooperation Treaty signed by both countries in 1991. The Moroccan king pointed out that the best way to resolve the ‘territorial conflict’ over Ceuta and Melilla was to establish ‘an honest, frank and open dialogue on the future’. The king added that a ‘responsible dialogue would guarantee our rights of sovereignty and would also take into account Spanish interests’.