Ceuta Migrants Crisis: Washington & Paris avoid taking sides in Morocco-Spain row
After a record number of migrants entered the occupied enclave of Ceuta earlier this week amid heightened tension between Morocco and Spain over Madrid’s decision to host Polisario chief under a false identity and with an Algerian passport, all eyes turn to Paris and Washington, Rabat’s strong allies, to see which side they will support.
While many analysts were expecting a firm reaction from Paris in defense of its European neighbor, France adopted a balanced position, accommodating the two neighboring countries.
“Morocco is a crucial partner of the European Union and an essential partner for France”, said Wednesday the French Foreign Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, during a hearing at the foreign affairs committee of the National Assembly.
The French top diplomat, who was answering a question from an MP of La Republique en Marche (majority party), on the diplomatic crisis between Rabat and Madrid over Brahim Ghali’s case, said Morocco is “a key partner for France and the European Union, an unsurpassable partner in particular in terms of cooperation in the Sahel, in the fight against terrorism and irregular immigration”.
“Morocco is an essential partner for France and a crucial partner of the European Union, particularly in the face of the migration challenge”, he insisted, stressing that France “is following the situation (in Ceuta) very carefully” and that this situation “brings to mind the question on the migratory flow.” “We are obviously in favor of a rapid return to normality in Ceuta.”
“I am fully confident that the partnership between Morocco and Spain, after this somewhat complicated period, will be able to resume calmly and the dialogue will be able to continue,” Jean-Yves Le Drian stressed.
Also on Wednesday, the spokesperson for the French Foreign Ministry reiterated at a press briefing that “Morocco is a vital partner for the EU, especially in light of the challenges posed by migration.”
“France hopes that cooperation on migration, which helped stem illegal flows of migrants in the Western Mediterranean and prevent the human tragedies that often go hand in hand with it, will continue”, the spokesperson added.
“The partnership between Morocco and Spain is close and solid, and we are certain that the two countries are continuing their dialogue on this issue”, underlined the Quai d’Orsay.
For its part, Washington avoids taking sides between its two strategic partners and allies. The Biden administration has preferred taking a neutral stance as shown by the statement made on Wednesday by the State Department.
“The United States continues to promote humane, orderly, and fair forms of migration through bilateral and multilateral diplomacies as well as targeted capacity-building programs. And on this basis, we support both Spain and Morocco to work towards a resolution together”, said Jolina Porter, spokesperson for the State Department.