The leading political party in the Canary Islands, Coalition Canaria, issued a warning on Wednesday, highlighting the potential threat posed to the Spanish islands if Morocco proceeds with oil explorations in the nearby Atlantic waters.
The party called for full transparency from Spain’s Foreign Ministry regarding Morocco’s plans, emphasizing the critical impact on the present and future of the Canary Islands.
Local politicians in the Canary Islands, situated in the Atlantic waters off the coast of Morocco and Western Sahara, are demanding more information, raising suspicions about potential oil exploration.
Cristina Valido, Coalition Canaria spokesperson, addressed the parliament, saying that the Canary Islands cannot be passive observers.
“we cannot continue on the sidelines of bilateral relations between Spain and Morocco, especially when there’s an issue that endangers the islands,” Valido added.
This concern arises as King Mohammed VI announced a major initiative to revitalize Morocco’s Atlantic coast, including waters off the disputed territory of Western Sahara.
In his speech, King Mohammed VI emphasized the importance of developing offshore natural resources, investing in fisheries, seawater desalination, promoting the blue economy, and supporting renewable energies.
In response to these concerns, Spain’s Acting Foreign Minister, Jose Manuel Albares, reassured the Canary Islands about Morocco’s intention to conduct natural resource exploration in the Atlantic off the coast of the Moroccan Sahara, close to the Canary Islands under Spanish sovereignty.
Albares said that Morocco is a strategic partner for Spain, and decisions concerning both parties will be based on bilateral friendship, ensuring the protection of the interests of the Canary Islands and Spain as a whole.
The minister addressed the fears expressed by Cristina Valido, stating that there are several joint working groups between Spain and Morocco, including a team working on defining maritime borders. Albares reassured that there is no need for concern, as indicated by the Spanish Foreign Minister.
This is not the first time that Morocco’s endeavors in gas and oil exploration in its southern Atlantic waters have ignited controversy within Spanish circles.
In April 2022, Angel Victor Torres, the President of the Canary Islands, firmly rejected any exploration activities in the waters surrounding the archipelago. Torres had asserted that the drilling operations are situated “in Moroccan waters and not in ‘Sahrawi’ or Canary Islands waters.”
The president had noted that these explorations fall under Morocco’s jurisdiction, emphasizing that the Canarian government will not permit any interference with “even one millimeter” of its waters.
The president further stated that the Canary Islands will actively participate in any negotiations between Morocco and Spain related to the waters flowing between the Canary Islands and Morocco.