Foreign ministers of Spain and Morocco announced their countries would hold talks about overlapping areas of ocean that they both claim rights to in the North Atlantic.
The Spanish foreign minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya (pictured) traveled to Morocco on January 24 amid diplomatic tension over Rabat’s attempt to take control of waters close to Canary Islands.
The territorial waters Morocco has claimed include the coast off Western Sahara, a territory that has been contested between Rabat and the Algerian-backed Polisario Front since the end of Spanish colonial era in 1975.
Morocco’s parliament passed two bills this week to give domestic legal grounds to a coastal area the North African country already controls, causing concern about Canary Islands, where the Madrid warned of overlaps with Spanish territorial waters.
Morocco’s foreign minister Nasser Bourita said that defining territorial waters was a “sovereign right” and that his country aimed to upgrade domestic law in compliance with the UN law of the sea convention.
“In case of overlaps, international law requires states to negotiate,” said Bourita following talks with his Spanish peer, Arancha Gonzalez Laya.
“Morocco rejects unilateral acts and “fait accompli,” he said, adding that Spain was a “strategic partner” and Morocco’s largest trading partner.
Gonzalez Laya said Morocco’s willingness to negotiate “reassures the Canary Islands”.
“Morocco is a source of stability for Spain,” Arancha Gonzalez Laya said, pointing at “close cooperation” in the fight against jihadists and illegal migration.