When Juan Carlos wanted to cede Melilla to King Hassan II (CIA document)

In April 1979, Juan Carlos was ready to cede Melilla to Morocco and entrust Ceuta to the international tutelage. This decision was initiated by the American embassy resulting in a meeting between King Hassan II and an envoy sent by Jimmy Carter.

Hassan II with Juan Carlos./ Ph. Archive. DR
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Charles Powell, a historian who is currently director of the Eclano Institute, presented yesterday in Madrid his new book «King of Democracy» to pay tribute to the contribution of Juan Carlos in Spain’s transition to democracy.

Morocco took part of Powell’s new book, Europa Press news agency reports. The author insists that King Juan Carlos was ready to cede Melilla to King Hassan II in 1979. He affirms that the Spanish Monarch had announced his project, in a conversation of one and a half hour, to the American Senator Edmund Muskie (Democratic Party), personal envoy of President Jimmy Carter who was on tour in Europe. Ambassador Terence Todman also attended the meeting.

The discussion between the two men was revealed by a source from the American embassy in Madrid. Long considered as confidential, the document was released in 2014, which allowed Powell to have a look at it.

Only 10,000 Spanish Christians lived in Melilla in 1979

Quickly Morocco became the core of the conversation. «The most important matter between Morocco and Spain is the two Spanish enclaves», said Juan Carlos to Muskie. «He believes that Melilla could be ceded to Morocco in the short term since there is only 10,000 Spanish Christians living there», indicates the source from the American chancellery.

One should bear in mind that we are talking about 1979, when the wave of naturalization of Moroccans living in Ceuta and Melilla had not started yet. It was not until a few years later, under the first mandate of former socialist Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez, that the process was launched.

Juan Carlos made his American interlocutors know that giving Melilla back to Morocco could displease the army of his country. However, he was confident that the «discomfort» of his generals «will last only two months», insisting that he is able to take «control of the situation».

Worried about a second Green March

Juan Carlos had a different plan for Ceuta. In 1979, 60,000 Spaniards were living in the territory which made it difficult for Spain hand over Ceuta to Morocco. «Maybe the best solution» would be to give it an international status similar to the one Tangier had from 1923 to 1956, he explained.

Juan Carlos’ decision to separate from Melilla and make Ceuta an international area was forced to abide by internal politics. The source from the American embassy revealed the main fear of the Spanish sovereign :

«In the absence of a solution, the king feared the possibility of another Green March. This could create serious problems».

The discussion between the monarch and Edmund Muskie dates back to the 30th of April 1979, three years after the launch of the Green March, a mass demonstration in November 1975 coordinated by the Moroccan government to force Spain to hand over Western Sahara.

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