Diplomatic Briefing

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Newsline: Spain’s ‘U-turn’ on Western Sahara sends ambassadors in and out

Morocco on Sunday reinstated its ambassador to Spain, effectively ending a 10-month row between the two key Mediterranean neighbors after Madrid shifted its long-standing position on Western Sahara, its former colony in North Africa. Karima Benyaich, the Moroccan envoy to Spain, on Sunday told Spanish state news agency EFE that she had returned to Madrid the day before, shortly after the Spanish government backed Rabat’s plan to give more autonomy to Western Sahara as long as the territory remains under its grip. (https://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Algeria-recalls-Spanish-ambassador-over-Western-17014758.php) But the move opened a new diplomatic front for Spain with Algeria — its other North Africa neighbor, a crucial natural gas supplier and Morocco’s regional foe — which recalled its own ambassador to Madrid in protest for Spain’s “U-turn.” Western Sahara, a vast territory largely barren but rich in phosphates and facing fertile fishing grounds in the Atlantic Ocean, is disputed between Morocco, which annexed it in 1976, and the Algeria-backed Polisario Front independence movement.

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