Morocco on Sunday announced it summoned the Spanish envoy to Rabat in protest of Madrid’s reception of a militia leader.
The Moroccan Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it asked Spain’s Ambassador to Rabat Ricardo Diez-Hochleitner to provide clarification over the reception of Polisario Front leader Brahim Ghali.
Moroccan and Spanish media reported that Ghali was received in Spain for medical treatment for coronavirus.
The ministry expressed disappointment, saying: “Spain is hosting a leader of a separatist militia (Polisario) who is accused of war crimes and grave violations to human rights,” calling this “contrary to the spirit of partnership and good neighborliness.”
The statement also accused Spanish authorities of receiving Ghali with a false passport and identity, as there are several complaints against him before Spanish courts over committing “war crimes and human rights violations.”
Since 1975, there has been a conflict between Morocco and the Polisario Front over the territory of the Sahara, which began after the Spanish occupation in the region ended.
It turned into an armed confrontation that lasted until 1991, when a cease-fire was reached under UN auspices.
Rabat insists it is entitled to the Sahara region and proposes expanded autonomy under its sovereignty, while Polisario has called for a referendum to determine the region’s fate, a proposal supported by Algeria, which is hosting refugees from the region.
*Ahmed Asmar contributed to this report from Ankara