Sunday, October 2, 2022

Spain and Morocco improve ties: reopen land border

MADRID ( Associated Press) — The land borders between Spain and Morocco in the enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, two Spanish cities on the North African coast, began to reopen Tuesday after more than two years closed due to COVID-19 and a subsequent diplomatic crisis between the two nations.

A crowd gathered at midnight at the crossings of Tarajal, in Ceuta, and Beni Enzar, in Melilla, to witness the reopening at midnight on Monday.

Initially, the passage is limited to residents with a passport from the European Schengen area and their families, and at the end of the month it will be extended to cross-border workers.

The president of the autonomous city of Melilla, Eduardo de Castro, said in statements to state radio RNE that, in the first hours, the traffic was as expected.

The situation is “completely normal, there are no crowds,” he said, adding that customs controls will take “several months” to be restored.

On both sides of the fence that separates the Spanish from the Moroccan territories, the local economy has a strong dependence on the crossing of products and workers.

Madrid and Rabat are trying to mend their relationship after a year-long dispute over the region of Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony that Morocco annexed in 1976.

The reopening of the borders comes exactly one year after Morocco eased its controls around Ceuta, allowing thousands of migrants to enter Spain. That decision was widely seen as retaliation for Spain’s decision to allow the leader of Western Sahara’s pro-independence movement into the country to be treated for COVID-19 in a hospital.

Tensions began to ease earlier this year after Spain backed Morocco’s plan to grant Western Sahara greater autonomy, which has angered many former colony residents who want full independence.

The ferries linking the two countries started operating a few weeks ago.

Nation World News Desk
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