Authorities in the Canary Islands sparked controversy over Morocco’s Atlantic gas exploration project, to which the Foreign Minister of Spain’s interim government, José Manuel Albares, responded by sending a reassuring message that “Morocco is a strategic partner for Spain”.
The Spanish minister assured that all decisions taken to define maritime borders at the Atlantic level are based ‘on friendship and the protection of the interests of Spain and the Canary Islands’. Morocco, ahead of Spain, has already started to explore offshore oil fields in the Atlantic Ocean to meet its natural gas needs in the near future.
European media reported that concerns within the Alianza Nacionalista Canaria (CC) were prompted by King Mohammed VI’s speech on the exploration of natural resources in the Atlantic Ocean. Cristina Valido, leader of Coalición Canaria in the Spanish parliament, called for a “response” from Paris, demanding “maximum transparency” and warning against “harming the interests of the Canary Islands”.
In a speech to commemorate the 48th anniversary of the “Green March”, King Mohammed VI called for the exploration of the natural resources of the Atlantic Ocean through the Sahara in Morocco to become a “true tourist destination” and to set the wheels of development in motion and build a competitive navy that embraces African countries, including those affected by war and fear of secession, as well as the southern region.
In a question addressed to the Spanish Foreign Minister, the representative responded to the question of whether Morocco’s oil exploration plans will continue in the territorial waters near the island and rejected the Madrid government’s silence.
Regardless of the bilateral relations between Madrid and Rabat and the fact that this sensitive issue is being dealt with in a joint committee between the two countries, “the question of the maritime border with Morocco has always been a source of discord in the political community of the autonomous region of the Canaries in Spain”, explained Nabil Driouch, an expert on Moroccan-Spanish affairs, to the Al-Arab media outlet.
“We need to start a new unprecedented period in Moroccan-Spanish relations, based on trust, openness, mutual respect and the fulfilment of obligations,” he said. He said that positive results were obtained with drilling in the Anchovy oil field, located off the coast of Larache, facing the Atlantic Ocean. The oil reserves discovered are expected to exceed one trillion cubic metres.
The search for resources in the wider sea is part of the investment to develop natural resources and to develop these areas and restore infrastructure. “The Canary Islands belong to the central government and border issues are not the responsibility of the local government,” Driouch said.
However, he went on to provide some formal and technical details, pointing out that “Morocco’s relations with Spain came about following the Spanish country’s support for Morocco’s autonomy proposal as a practical solution to the Sahara conflict”. Exploration and prospecting activities have expanded in recent years, as the country is believed to possess resources, particularly oil shale, which is considered one of the most promising sources of unconventional fossil fuels.