Morocco stands firm on delimiting its maritimes borders, while being ready to discuss any overlaps with neighboring countries, Spain in particular.
Rabat – Morocco’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Nasser Bourita has underlined that Morocco has “a sovereign right” to redefine its maritime borders.
The comment comes amid speculation circulating in Spanish media about the tension between Morocco and Spain after the official approval of two Moroccan laws redefining Morocco’s maritime borders, on Monday, December 16.
Bourita made the remarks to Moroccan news outlet Medias24.
According to several Spanish media outlets, Morocco does not have the right to delimit its maritime borders without authorization from both Spanish and Portuguese authorities. The Moroccan Foreign Minister, however, refutes the claims.
“There is no misunderstanding. Morocco has its sovereign rights and does not seek to go beyond its rights. Other countries have delimited their maritime space without authorization,” the minister stipulated.
“Morocco delimits but it does not seek to impose the borders as a fait accompli, it is open to dialogue, especially with Spain,” he continued, noting the complexity of defining maritime borders between Morocco and Spain: “In the case of Algeria, the median line stands out naturally… The case is technically more complex with Spain.”
The new Moroccan laws are based on the UN Law of the Sea Convention that Morocco signed on December 10, 1982, and ratified on May 31, 2007. The convention sets out states’ maritime rights and duties, mainly in the fields of navigation and exploitation of economic resources, explained Bourita.
The document sets the limits of maritime borders (12 nautical miles), straits, and exclusive economic zones (200 nautical miles). In the event of overlap, neighboring states must enter into dialogue or negotiation, added the minister.
Morocco’s Foreign Minister explained that the UN convention encourages states to delimit maritime space in order to identify potential overlaps. States must then proceed to deal with the overlaps by dialogue, or even by arbitration if necessary. Delimitation is a prerequisite for dialogue and not vice versa.
The official reiterated Morocco’s readiness for dialogue concerning any overlaps between Moroccan maritime borders and Spanish ones.
When Morocco ratified the convention in 2007, it rendered obsolete the previous Moroccan texts about maritime borders, dating back to 1973. The outdated texts are unsuitable because they do not take into consideration the recovery of Western Sahara in 1975, according to Bourita.
The new laws that caused a stir in Spanish media will allow Morocco, through the use of sophisticated technologies, to carry out technical operations to delimit the baselines of its maritime borders, its exclusive economic zone, and its continental shelf, explained the official.
The Moroccan Royal Navy acquired an oceanographic vessel in 2018 as part of the operations.
In 2017, the government created a commission comprising the Ministry of Mines, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the National Agency for Land Conservation and Cartography (ANCFCC), and the Royal Navy. The commission collaborated with national and international experts to precisely define Morocco’s maritime borders.
At the end of 2017, the commission prepared a report and sent it to the UN for review. However, the dossier was put on hold because of the discussions between Morocco and the EU on their fisheries agreement.
After the adoption of the new laws on December 16 by a parliamentary committee, the House of Representatives will vote on the two bills in early 2020. Morocco will only examine any potential overlaps with neighboring countries after the final adoption of the laws, concluded Bourita.