RABAT (Dispatches) – Morocco wants Spain to open an investigation into the circumstances of a Western Sahara independence movement leader’s arrival in the country for medical treatment and explain its findings to Rabat.
Madrid should explain “the conditions, circumstances and connivances that led to the fraudulent entry of this person using false documents and a usurped identity”, Foreign Ministry Director General Fouad Yazourh said on Saturday.
Spain’s decision to host Polisario Front leader Brahim Ghali without telling Rabat while using what Morocco says are travel documents provided by Algeria and a false name, has angered Rabat, which regards Western Sahara as part of Morocco.
The Algeria-backed Polisario Front seeks the region’s independence. Last year, it said it was resuming an armed struggle that was put on hold by a United Nations-brokered ceasefire in 1991, though there has been little evidence of fighting.
Media reports said that the 73-year-old Ghali, has been hospitalized at a medical center in the city of Logrono.
Ghali, who has been infected by the coronavirus and suffers from other diseases such as hepatitis C and liver cirrhosis, is said to be in critical condition. He was also operated on for colon cancer.
The Sahrawi movement, which controls one-fifth of the disputed Western Sahara with additional pockets of control in the Sahrawi refugee camps along the Algerian border, has for decades been aiming to gain international recognition of Western Sahara as an independent Democratic Arab state.
However, negotiations between Morocco and the Polisario under the aegis of the United Nations, with Algeria and Mauritania as observers, have been suspended since March 2019.
Meanwhile, Morocco’s ambassador to Spain, Karima Benyaich, warned on Friday in Rabat that if Madrid opted to remove Ghali from Spain with the same “opacity” he was allowed to enter, “it is opting for the stagnation and worsening of bilateral relations.”
In a statement read out at the Foreign Ministry in Rabat and after meeting with Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita, the ambassador, who was recalled to the Moroccan capital for consultations on Tuesday, did not hesitate to describe the situation in Spanish-Moroccan relations as a “serious crisis.”
Tensions have escalated in the region ever since the administration of former U.S. president Donald Trump brokered a deal between Morocco and the Zionist regime late last year on normalizing relations.
As part of the deal, the U.S. agreed to recognize Morocco’s claim over “the entire Western Sahara territory.”
Morocco, in recent years, has also gained recognition of its claims over the disputed Western Sahara region from several other countries that opened diplomatic offices there.
The Polisario Front considers the recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara as a “violation of international law and an attack on the legal status of Western Sahara as a non-autonomous territory.”