“The border with the Sahara can’t be longer than ours is with Mexico,” the US president is said to have declared during a meeting with Spain’s foreign minister, Josep Borrell.
The desert in fact stretches some 3,000 miles across northern Africa, about 1,000 miles further than the US-Mexico land border, as Spanish diplomats reportedly attempted to explain.
Spain’s border in north Africa is with Morocco. Its tiny and diplomatically divisive enclaves of Melilla and Ceuta are surrounded by wire fences, and have seen clashes between migrants and guards.
At a lunch event at Madrid’s Club Siglo XXI, Mr Borrell told attendees the exchange had come during his trip to the US in June, El Pais reported.
A Spanish foreign ministry spokesman told The Guardian Mr Borrell had said what was reported, but added: “We won’t be making any further comment on the minister’s remarks.”
Whether Mr Trump was joking is not clear, and Spanish press reports admitted the context of the remarks was unknown.
Mr Borell also told the lunch meeting that Europe’s migration crisis would not be solved in the near future because it was one of identity and culture, and that European countries were not constituted to accept more than “a percentage” of migrants, particularly if they were Muslim, Europa Press reported.
During his campaign for the presidency Mr Trump promised to build a “big, beautiful wall” along the US border with Mexico and said his southern neighbours would pay for it, though Mexico has repeatedly refused.
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