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Sánchez symbolically hands over the keys to Western Sahara to the Moroccan head of state, Mohammed VI. Accompanied by his foreign minister, José Manuel Albares, the Spanish PM, Pedro Sánchez, travelled to Rabat on Thursday aboard a Spanish Air Force plane. As he touched down in the Moroccan capital shortly before 4:15pm, the future of the Saharawi people was effectively decided, with bilateral relations between the North African kingdom and Spain having supposedly been repaired. However, Sánchez did not want to comment to reporters whether specific agreements on reopening borders or smoothing summer traffic across the Straits of Gibraltar will emerge from his meeting with the monarch, but he assured that in the coming days there will be some "news". As a sign of good faith, the Moroccans broke their fast at the end of this day of Ramadan with dinner or iftar at the Royal Palace in Rabat, accompanied by the Spanish representatives.

pedro sanchez presidente españa rei marruecos mohammed vi rabat - moncloa

Sánchez and Mohammed VI clasp hands at the Royal Palace in Rabat / La Moncloa

Visit to Rabat

Upon landing in Rabat, Sánchez and Albares were welcomed by their Moroccan counterparts, prime minister Aziz Ajanuch, and the country's head of diplomacy, Naser Burita. They were also accompanied by the Moroccan ambassador in Madrid, Karima Benyaich, who returned to her post on March 20th after abandoning it a year ago due to the Sánchez government's decision to host Brahim Galithe leader of Western Sahara's Polisario Front, granted permission to enter Spain for hospital treatment. This Thursday, Sánchez affirmed that the visit to Rabat is "important" and a first step in restoring confidence, and that little by little progress and specific steps will be taken. On the other hand, he insisted that there was a "good agreement" with Morocco as a basis to turn a corner in the bilateral relationship after almost a year of crisis. "For many reasons, not just migration, we had to normalize relations," he said.

Sánchez's visit to Morocco / Jorge Villar


Regarding the initiative on a referendum in the Western Sahara presented today in the Spanish Congress by Podemos, ERC and EH Bildu - which was passed with support from the PNV, Junts, PDeCAT and the PP and the extraordinary sight of the PSOE being left all alone in its 'no' to the Sahara - Sánchez said that he "respects" it, although he reaffirmed that his decision to recognize the Moroccan autonomy plan as the most realistic basis for resolving the dispute. "I respect what has been approved in Congress," said the prime minister, who defended the step he took with his March 14th letter to Mohammed VI, stating that the Moroccan autonomy plan for the Sahara it is "the most solid, credible and realistic basis" for achieving a solution. "I reaffirm that this is the best position in the general interest of Spain," he said, reiterating his support for a policy which goes against United Nations resolutions and the position of the EU.