Spain, Morocco have reopened land border crossings as relations have improved

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MADRID – Spain and Morocco’s land borders in the North African enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla have reopened after being closed for more than two years due to the COVID-19 epidemic and a diplomatic crisis between the two countries.

Crowds gathered at the first frontier to witness the reopening at midnight on Monday – Tarajal in Ceuta, and Melilla Benny Enger – for the reopening.

The crossings were initially restricted to residents of Europe’s passport-free Shenzhen area and their family members, and will be extended to cross-border workers by the end of the month.

Melilla’s regional president Eduardo de Castro told Spanish state radio RNE that the first hour of traffic had gone as planned.

“Things are normal, there are no huge crowds,” he said, adding that he hoped tariff control would take “several months” to be restored.

The local economies on both sides of the fence cut off small Spanish enclaves from Morocco in northwestern Africa, relying heavily on the crossing of goods and workers.

Madrid and Rabat, a former Spanish colony annexed by Morocco in 1976, are pushing for a rapprochement after a year-long dispute over the disputed region of western Sahara.

Exactly one year after the reopening of the land border on Tuesday, Morocco relaxed its control around Siuta, allowing thousands of migrants to cross into Spain. The move was widely seen as a retaliation for Spain’s decision to allow the leader of the pro-independence movement in Western Sahara to treat Kovid-19 in a Spanish hospital.

Tensions erupted earlier this year after Spain backed Morocco’s plan to give more autonomy to the Western Sahara, which has angered many in the former colony seeking full independence.

The ferry service between the two countries started a few weeks ago.

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