MOROCCO’S prime minister has called for the Spanish territories of Ceuta and Melilla to be ‘returned’ to the North African country.
Saadeddine El Othmani said over the weekend that ‘the day will come’ when his country and Spain will have to ‘reopen the issue’ of the two autonomous cities.
“They are Moroccan, just like the Sahara,” he said during a televised interview.
The inflammatory comments come before the two countries are set to hold a bi-lateral summit in February.
The Government of Spain was forced to summon the Moroccan ambassador Karima Benyaich while the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Cristina Gallach demanded clarification from El Othmani.
The issue of Ceuta and Melilla is being stoked by nationalist movements in the country.
But any foreign policy decision is taken by King Mohamed VI, and he has shown no interest in ‘reclaiming’ the two cities.
Spain’s vice president of the Government Carmen Calvo said: “Ceuta and Melilla are Spanish… end of.”
The two cities have been a part of Spain for more than 500 years and are older than some cities on the mainland.
“Sovereignty is Spanish, for us it’s clear,” said Melilla president Eduardo de Castro to ABC, “We have a constitution and Statute of Autonomy, and international treaties recognise it… we have never been a colony.”
De Castro added that the Moroccan ambassador made it clear that the status quo remains in tact after being summoned by the Spanish.
Right-wing Spaniards who long to claim back the British territory of Gibraltar are often called hypocrites over Ceuta and Melilla.