Madrid, Feb 3 (AFP/APP):Spain on Thursday said it would help Morocco ensure its energy security by allowing it to transport supplies through the Maghreb-Europe gas pipeline (GME) following a supply crisis with Algeria.
“Morocco has asked for support to guarantee its energy security on the basis of trade relations and Spain has responded positively as it would do with any other friend or neighbour,” Spain’s ecological transition ministry said in a statement.
“Morocco will be able to obtain liquefied natural gas (LNG) on the international markets, bring it to a regasification plant on the (Spanish) mainland and use the GME pipeline to transport it to its territory,” it said, without giving a date nor outlining the volumes concerned.
Morocco’s energy ministry declined to reveal details of the deal.
Moroccan news website Le360 said it followed several weeks of talks between Rabat and Madrid.
The announcement came three months after Algeria said it would not renew an expiring 25-year deal to use the pipeline through which it had transported gas to Spain via Morocco.
Algeria, Africa’s biggest gas exporter, had used the GME since 1996 to export some 10 billion cubic metres of gas per year to Spain and onwards to Portugal.
In return, Morocco had received around a billion cubic metres of gas per year as transit fees, covering around 97 percent of its needs.
Ending the contract directly affected Rabat’s energy supplies at a time when global gas prices have peaked.
The contract ended as tensions peaked between the North African neighbours following Morocco’s renewal of diplomatic ties with Israel and Washington’s recognition of the kingdom’s sovereignty over disputed Western Sahara.
Morocco sees the former Spanish colony as its own sovereign territory while Algeria has long supported Western Sahara’s Polisario Front, which seeks full independence for the territory.
Algiers cut all diplomatic ties with Rabat in August.
Madrid’s decision to help Morocco was a gesture aimed at de-escalating tensions between the two nations that began in April when Spain allowed the Polisario Front’s leader to be treated at a Spanish hospital when he was very ill with Covid.
That decision sparked a tetchy stand-off with Morocco. A month later, some 10,000 migrants surged into Spain’s Ceuta enclave as Moroccan border forces looked the other way in what was widely seen as a punitive move by Rabat.
At the end of November, Rabat signed a 10-year deal with Sound Energy to receive gas supplies from a concession the British firm holds in eastern Morocco.
Spain will continue to receive its gas from Algeria, its main supplier, via the Medgaz pipeline that runs directly between the two countries under the Mediterranean.
Algiers has pledged to increase the pipeline’s capacity to compensate for the closure of the GME.