The Moroccan and Spanish foreign ministers said their countries would hold talks about overlapping areas of ocean they both claim in the North Atlantic.
The territorial waters Morocco claims include the coast off Western Sahara, a territory contested between Morocco and the Algerian-backed Polisario Front since the Spanish colonial period ended in 1975.
Morocco’s parliament passed two bills last week to give domestic legal cover to a coastal area the North African country already controls, causing concern in Spain’s Canary Islands, where government warned of overlaps with Spanish territorial waters.
Morocco foreign minister Nasser Bourita said defining territorial waters was a “sovereign right” and his country aimed to upgrade domestic law in compliance with the UN law of the sea convention.
“In the case of overlaps, international law requires states to negotiate,” said Bourita aftter talks with his Spanish peer, Arancha Gonzalez Laya.
“Morocco rejects unilateral acts and fait accompli,” he said, adding Spain was a “strategic partner” as well as Morocco’s largest trading partner.
Gonzalez Laya said Morocco’s willingness to negotiate “reassures the Canary Islands”.
“Morocco is a source of stability for Spain,” she said, citing “close co-operation” in the fight against jihadists and illegal migration.