Airspace management negotiations continued

Madrid broke its silence about the alleged suspension of negotiations with Rabat regarding the management of the airspace of the Moroccan Sahara. Indeed, the Spanish government confirmed, with the voice of its Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Alpars, that negotiations on the “management of the airspace of the Moroccan Sahara” are continuing with Morocco.

The head of Spanish diplomacy did not give more details about the transfer of air management, which arouses fear among the Polisario separatists and their sponsors, but he indicated, on the other hand, that there are “informal and continuous contacts” between Rabat and Madrid, which some consider unofficial.

The statements of the Spanish Foreign Minister directly denied what was published by the Spanish media, regarding the suspension of the Spanish government, due to the legislative elections, negotiations to transfer airspace management from the Moroccan Sahara to Rabat.

In fact, the Moroccan and Spanish authorities have begun negotiations to transfer the management of airspace in the Atlantic Sahara to Rabat. A long-awaited decision, which appeared in the joint declaration of the two countries on April 7, 2022. Last March, the Spanish government, in response to a parliamentary question from Senator Fernando Clavijo, representative of the Canary Islands Alliance, approved the start of negotiations with Morocco over the management of airspace in the Moroccan Sahara.

For his part, the President of the Canary Islands, Angel Victor Torres, indicated that these negotiations are in line with point 7 of the joint declaration issued last April between Spain and Morocco, and confirmed “the existence of regular negotiations between the Spanish executive authority with The Kingdom of Morocco to entrust it with managing the airspace of the Atlantic Sahara region.” Angel Victor Torres did not fail to insist on the need to maintain a smooth relationship with Morocco based on “transparency”, without making “unilateral decisions”, “without distorting matters and without raising alarm bells between the Spanish and Moroccan governments”.

The Madrid government then indicated that the talks had already begun and that contacts with Moroccan officials were limited to airspace management, noting that “this coordination aims to achieve more security in communications and technical cooperation, which is what the two countries aspire to.” The negotiations aim to transfer the powers to Morocco for the time being in the hands of Spain and this, from the Canary Islands, as stipulated by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) of the United Nations.

And if the negotiations between Rabat and Madrid succeed, then the management of the airspace in the Moroccan desert, which is currently administered by Spain from the Canary Islands, will move to Morocco, after managing it from the Canary Islands Air Control Center. As a reminder, in 1976 when the Moroccan Sahara was recovered, the International Civil Aviation Organization left air control over the Atlantic Sahara region to the Spanish state.

In aviation parlance, Fir is a flight information region where the flight information service and alert service (ALRS) are provided. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) delegates the operational control of a designated FIR to a country, in the case of the Canary Islands and the Moroccan Atlantic Sahara, the authority has authorized Spain to manage it.

The Spanish Airports Authority has signed an agreement with ONDA to coordinate air movements in this desert region. Flight permits from Laayoune airportsAnd Dakhla and Smara were awarded by the Casablanca Regional Control Center (CCRC). Then an additional request is sent to the control center in the Canary Islands. The Convention does not apply to military flights, as the Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation does not apply to aircraft used for military, customs, or police services.

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