Morocco-Spain: Control of the airspace above the Sahara on the table for the next NHN?

Just over five years ago, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) declared Spain the country responsible for managing the airspace above the Moroccan Sahara, an issue that the Kingdom intends to raise at the next High Level Meeting (RHN) with the officials of the Iberian country in order to be able to have air control of its Saharan territory.

ICAO, as the international airspace authority, took the decision in 2017 to assign responsibility for the management of the Sahara airspace to Spain, indicating, in the same context, that the air navigation service providers of the two countries, ENAIRE and ONDA, have signed agreements allowing the coordination of aircraft movements between the responsible airspaces, as they exist through different neighboring airspaces, and this without the intervention of the civil aviation authorities of the countries concerned.

The agreements signed encourage that all aircraft, including commercial aircraft, Moroccan military aircraft operating in this area as well as fighter aircraft flying over this part of Moroccan territory, are under the control of Spanish air traffic authorities and must necessarily inform this management center. This airspace is considered one of the busiest routes for airlines covering routes between Europe and South America and managed by the air traffic control center located at Gando airport located at Gran Canaria Island.

The international organization had also imposed on the Kingdom a continuous collaboration which requires informing the responsible authorities during the presence of one of its aircraft in the airspace of the Sahara, thus justifying that it is a routine reinforcing safety and the organization of air traffic.

However, it seems that Morocco is considering, during the High Level Meeting between the officials of the two nations, which was scheduled for the end of November but postponed for the beginning of 2023, the discussion of a proposal expressing its wish to manage and control the airspace of its Saharan territory. This is what political sources confirmed to the Spanish newspaper. Ok Diario.

According to sources who confided in the Iberian newspaper, Morocco is ready ” to solve this recurring problem with its usual formula: that Spain, Enaire in particular, renounce this air control in favor of the Kingdom and its air control agency, ONDA“. They claim that this is the next issue to be discussed at the HLM and that is what Pedro Sanchez should expect.

Since the resumption of the normal course of relations between Morocco and Spain and the support of the European neighbor of the Moroccan autonomy plan in the Sahara, several cooperations have supported the desire of the two countries to strengthen ties and join forces at the level of several areas of great importance.

According to previously released press releases, a clear and ambitious roadmap has been put in place to ” guarantee the stability, sovereignty, territorial integrity and prosperity of the two countries and to resolve certain disputes relating to maritime and airspace.

Otherwise, ” the High Level Meeting (HLM) is of great interest to the governments of the two countries, given the importance of the topics that will be discussed such as the strengthening of economic relations, the presence of companies on both sides of the Strait, the ecological transition and the orderly management of migration“Said the spokesperson for the Spanish government, Maria Jesus Montero, during a press briefing which took place following the weekly meeting of the Council of Ministers.

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