The international debate on the Western Sahara conflict was reopened, after a period of media obscurity, last November when the Polisario Front announced the end of the ceasefire with Morocco, in place since 1991. This escalation of tension had been brewing for some time. The Guerguerat border crossing in the south of Western Sahara has become the point of friction that has sparked a new chapter in this long-standing conflict.
Guerguerat is a vital border crossing point, linking Western Sahara with Mauritania, and forms part of what is known as the non-intervention zone under Military Agreement Number 1, signed by the United Nations (UN) with both Morocco and the Polisario Front. As part of the agreement, there can be no military presence of any kind in this zone.
The Polisario Front had claimed, on several occasions, that Morocco was in breach of the agreement, as there was a military presence in the area. Furthermore, the Alawi kingdom was using this crossing to transfer goods to other African countries, something the Polisario considered illegal. In retaliation, a group of Sahrawi activists decided to block the Guerguerat border crossing. The conflict finally erupted when the Moroccan army launched an operation in the demilitarised zone to unblock the crossing.
As a result of this escalation of tension, the Western Sahara conflict once again became an international media focus. Another decisive event that served to put the Sahara back in the spotlight was the US recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over the region.
Former US President Donald Trump, with one foot already out of the White House, announced through his social networks - a rather habitual habit - that the United States would recognise Morocco's sovereignty over the Western Sahara region, in exchange for the Alawi kingdom normalising relations with Israel. The White House presented this decision as "the only basis for a just and lasting solution to the dispute over the territory of Western Sahara and, as such, the president recognised Moroccan sovereignty over the entire territory of Western Sahara". They also announced the opening of a consulate in the city of Dakhla with "the aim of promoting economic and commercial opportunities in the region".
More than two months after this announcement, and with the entry of a new president in the White House, who has not yet pronounced himself on the decision taken by his predecessor, 250 political leaders and elected officials from 25 countries in Europe and Latin America have addressed a letter to the current US president, Joe Biden, in which they express their support for the decision taken by Donald Trump to recognise Morocco's sovereignty over the Sahara and to open a consulate in the city of Dakhla.
The letter, published by the former Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Giulio Terzi, reads: "Mr. President, we, former heads of government, former ministers, elected officials, members of parliaments, have the honour to write to you to express our satisfaction with the sovereign decision of the United States of America to recognise the full sovereignty of Morocco over the entire territory of the Sahara".
Among the signatories of this letter are former Czech President Vaclav Klaus, former Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales Cabrera, former Bulgarian Prime Minister Georgy Bliznachki, former member of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) Stephan Todorov Davidov, as well as several members of parliament and senators currently in office.
"We can only welcome the decision of the United States to recognise the autonomy initiative as the sole basis for a solution to the Sahara regional dispute, because we believe it opens concrete prospects for guiding the UN political process towards a final solution," the letter reads, indicating that they are convinced that the US, under the presidency of Joe Biden, will continue to move the Sahara issue towards a just and lasting solution through its continued support for the Moroccan Autonomy Initiative.
"We believe it is no coincidence that a growing number of nations, including the United States, support the Autonomy Initiative as a realistic, viable and sustainable political solution based on compromise," insist the 250 signatories.
Finally, they congratulate the US on the Trilateral Pact signed between Morocco, Israel and the United States, which "will strengthen the prospects for peace in the Middle East, in line with Morocco's historic role in promoting peace in the Middle East".