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Cablegate: Zapatero Finally Meets with King:Good Friends

VZCZCXRO3552
RR RUEHLA
DE RUEHRB #0681/01 2041720
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 221720Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY RABAT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8875
INFO RUEHAS/AMEMBASSY ALGIERS 4840
RUEHLI/AMEMBASSY LISBON 1218
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 3642
RUEHMD/AMEMBASSY MADRID 6014
RUEHNK/AMEMBASSY NOUAKCHOTT 3778
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 5072
RUEHTU/AMEMBASSY TUNIS 9670
RUEHLA/AMCONSUL BARCELONA 0005
RUEHCL/AMCONSUL CASABLANCA 4208

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 RABAT 000681

SIPDIS

STATE FOR NEA/MAG

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/21/2018
TAGS: PREL KMIG SP MO
SUBJECT: ZAPATERO FINALLY MEETS WITH KING:GOOD FRIENDS

REF: 07 RABAT 1706

Classified By: PolCouns Craig Karp for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

1. (C) Summary: Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez
Zapatero met with King Mohammad VI on July 11. The purpose of
the meeting was to reinforce the strong relations that
already exist between the two countries, primarily
highlighting cooperation in the areas of economics, security,
and immigration. Zapatero also met Moroccan Prime Minister
El Fassi followed by a meeting with the press. Publicly, the
two parties never mentioned the Ceuta and Melilla controversy
that sparked widespread demonstrations last year. However,
they reportedly addressed the issue privately, assuring each
other that it would not obstruct relations. The two
neighbors will re-invigorate their bilateral cooperation with
a round of ministerial visits leading up to a meeting of the
Bi-National Commission in Madrid chaired jointly in November
by Prime Ministers El Fassi and Zapatero. End Summary.

STRATEGIC IMPORTANCE OF OUJDA
2. (U) Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero
met with King Mohammad VI on July 11 in the city of Oujda.
Oujda is located in the northeastern corner of Morocco, not
far from the Spanish enclaves Ceuta and Melilla. The locale
underscored the absence of rhetoric over the issue. This was
Zapatero,s fourth official visit to Morocco and the first
since his re-election victory in March of this year. Some
Moroccan/Spanish experts claim that the King strategically
selected Oujda as the venue of his meeting with Zapatero
because the King wanted the Spanish president to speak out in
favor of re-opening the nearby border with Algeria, 9 miles
away. During the visit; however, Zapatero did not make any
official comments related to the Algerian/ Moroccan border
dispute.

GOOD RELATIONS
3. (U) Zapatero and Moroccan Prime Minister Abbas El Fassi
held a joint Press Conference following the meeting between
the King and Zapatero. The Spanish Prime Minister stated
that the relations between Morocco and Spain are good and
will always be good. Zapatero highlighted the importance of
strong regional security cooperation.

4. (U) Zapatero focused on three key areas of concern:
economics, security, and immigration. He spoke positively
about the 500,000 Moroccans currently living in Spain and
contributing to the economic and social development of both
countries. He stated that Morocco is a prime destination for
Spanish investors where 600 Spanish businesses currently
operate. Trade between the two kingdoms is estimated to be
close to $8 billion US dollars. Spain is Morocco's second
largest economic partner after France.

5. (U) On the subject of immigration, Zapatero acknowledged
the Moroccan and Spanish joint efforts to decrease the number
of illegal immigrants coming into Europe from Africa. Prime
Minister Zapatero noted the recent Government of Spain
initiative to regularize thousands of Moroccan immigrants
currently living in Spain. Zapatero complimented Government
of Morocco's (GOM) treatment of immigrants stating that
Morocco is not a country that exports immigrants but a
country that welcomes thousands of Sub-Saharan immigrants,
treating them with dignity and respect.

NO MENTION OF CEUTA OR MELILLA
6. (U) Neither El Fassi nor Zapatero publicly broached the
subject of Ceuta or Melilla, two enclaves under Spanish rule
for more than five hundred years. (Note: Morocco views these
two areas, in addition to the Western Sahara, as a part of
its territory. In November 2007, the GOM recalled its
Ambassador to Spain after the Spanish King, Juan Carlos, made
his first official visit to the disputed region (reftel).
There were no reports of protests or demonstrations during
Zapatero's visit. End Note.)

MAKING PLANS FOR THE FUTURE
7. (U) Prime Minister Zapatero announced that several
Spanish ministerial delegations would visit to prepare for
the next Moroccan-Spanish High Level Committee Meeting that
will convene in Madrid in November. The November meeting is
expected to focus on the key issues of immigration, the

RABAT 00000681 002 OF 002


economy, and culture. It will be chaired jointly by Prime
Ministers, El Fassi and Zapatero. The first of the promised
visits, by Spanish Interior Minister Rubalcaba, took place
July 16 and produced a number of technical understandings on
immigration and security.

8. (C) Youssef Amrani, Director General of Bilateral
Relations, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Spanish Embassy
DCM both confirmed to PolCouns that the meeting between the
King and PM Zapatero was "extremely good". Spanish diplomats
also told us Zapatero proposed to Mohammad VI mediation to
help improve the Moroccan/Algerian relationship. However,
Mohammad VI responded that, "the time was not right".

COMMENT
9.(SBU) The Spanish/Moroccan relationship remains strong and
positive. The absence of public discussion by the King or
the hotly nationalist El Fassi of the Spanish enclaves is a
sign of the strength of the relationship. Morocco and Spain
have transcended the enclaves issue to concentrate on their
rapidly growing economic ties, managing immigration
(including keeping Sub Saharans out of Spain) and their vital
shared interest in counterterrorism cooperation.


*****************************************
Visit Embassy Rabat's Classified Website;
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/nea/rabat
*****************************************

Riley

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