Spanish PM visits Morocco to boost migration cooperation

Morocco's Prime Minister Saad Eddine el-Othmani (R) and his Spanish counterpart Pedro Sanchez give a joint press conference in the Moroccan capital Rabat on November 19, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 19 November 2018
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Spanish PM visits Morocco to boost migration cooperation

  • Spain has this year become the main entry point for migrants crossing the Mediterranean, the majority departing from Morocco

RABAT: Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez on Monday made his first official visit to Morocco, where he pushed for greater cooperation between the two countries on tackling migration.
Spain has this year become the main entry point for migrants crossing the Mediterranean, the majority departing from Morocco.
“Migration is a shared responsibility and we must reinforce our cooperation in this area,” Sanchez said following talks with his Moroccan counterpart Saad Eddine el Othmani.
More than 50,000 migrants have crossed into Spain so far this year, according to figures from the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
Madrid has for months been pressing the European Union to unlock funds for Morocco to better tackle people smuggling into the bloc.
Throughout the year, numerous Spanish ministers and officials have traveled to Rabat to discuss security issues and migration.
Sanchez was accompanied by a government delegation for his first visit to the North African nation since taking office in June.
Othmani said Morocco was doing “all that is in its power regarding the fight against illegal immigration.”
Moroccan authorities say that between January and the end of September they stopped some 68,000 illegal attempts to cross into Europe and dismantled 122 people smuggling gangs.
“The migration question is complex and it cannot be resolved solely through a security approach, despite its importance, it’s necessary to favor the development of departure countries in Africa,” said Othmani.
Many seeking to reach Europe are from sub-Saharan Africa, but in recent years there has been an increasing number of Moroccans seeking to leave the country.
While the majority of migrants have taken the perilous sea journey in rubber dinghies, others have scaled fences into the Spanish territories of Ceuta and Melilla which border Morocco.


Beirut praises ‘progress’ on maritime border dispute

Updated 21 May 2019
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Beirut praises ‘progress’ on maritime border dispute

  • Israel and Lebanon both claim ownership of an 860-square-kilometer area of the Mediterranean Sea.
  • Lebanon insists that the area lies within its economic zone and refuses to give up a single part of it

BEIRUT: Lebanon has hinted that progress is being made in efforts to resolve its maritime border dispute with Israel following the return of a US mediator from talks with Israeli officials.

US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Satterfield returned to Lebanon following talks in Israel where he outlined Lebanese demands regarding the disputed area and the mechanism to reach a settlement.

The US mediator has signaled a new push to resolve the dispute after meetings with both Lebanese and Israeli officials.

Israel and Lebanon both claim ownership of an 860-square-kilometer area of the Mediterranean Sea. Lebanon hopes to begin offshore oil and gas production in the offshore Block 9 as it grapples with an economic crisis.

A source close to Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, who met with Satterfield on Monday after his return to Lebanon, told Arab News that “there is progress in the efforts, but the discussion is not yet over.” He did not provide further details.

Sources close to the Lebanese presidency confirmed that Lebanon is counting on the US to help solve the demarcation dispute and would like to accelerate the process to allow exploration for oil and gas to begin in the disputed area.

Companies that will handle the exploration require stability in the area before they start working, the sources said.

Previous efforts by Satterfield to end the dispute failed in 2012 and again last year after Lebanon rejected a proposal by US diplomat Frederick Hoff that offered 65 percent of the disputed area to Lebanon and 35 percent to Israel. Lebanon insisted that the area lies within its economic zone and refused to give up a single part of it.

Satterfield has acknowledged Lebanon’s ownership of around 500 sq km of the disputed 850 sq km area.

Lebanon renewed its commitment to a mechanism for setting the negotiations in motion, including the formation of a tripartite committee with representatives of Lebanon, Israel and the UN, in addition to the participation of the US mediator. Beirut also repeated its refusal to negotiate directly with Israel.

Two months ago, Lebanon launched a marine environmental survey in blocks 4 and 9 in Lebanese waters to allow a consortium of French, Italian and Russian companies to begin oil and gas exploration in the area.