Emirates to open a Consulate in Laayoune

It will be the first Arab country to open a consulate in the capital of Western Sahara
Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan

PHOTO/BANDAR ALGALOUD  -   The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan

The United Arab Emirates is to open a consulate general in El Aaiun, the capital of Western Sahara, as announced in a statement by the Moroccan Royal Palace, thus becoming the first Arab country to take such a step.

So far fourteen countries have opened consulates in El Aaiun or Dakhla, the second city of the Western Sahara, but they are all sub-Saharan African states and solid allies of Morocco. The Alaouite kingdom decided to leave the African Union by recognising the Western Sahara as an independent state, but three years ago rejoined the organisation to continue to strengthen ties between its African neighbours.

The territory of Western Sahara has been in dispute with Morocco since 1975. After a war between the Moroccan army and the Polisario Front (the only party representing the Sahrawi population) a ceasefire was agreed in 1991. To this day an international solution has still not been found despite the presence of the United Nations through MINURSO.

The Emirate's communiqué does not specify the date of the opening of this Consulate. The news was communicated to King Mohammed VI in a telephone call from the Emirate's Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Zayed.

The King of Morocco, for his part, thanked Mohammed bin Zayed for "this important historical decision to support the territorial unity of the (Moroccan) kingdom with this part of its territory", thus underlining the political and not merely consular nature of this decision, since there are no number of emirate residents in Western Sahara who would justify a consulate.

This gesture is shown as international support for the Alaouite monarchy, which manages over two-thirds of the Spanish ex-colony. The battle front, now paralysed, is divided by a wall more than 2,700 km long full of mines; the Saharawi refugees from Tindouf in the Algerian desert consider it to be the second largest wall after the famous Chinese wall.

PHOTO/ONU/MARTINE PERRET  -  Peacekeepers from the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) consult a map as they travel through vast desert areas of Smara in Western Sahara

In recent months Morocco has promoted the opening of consulates of various countries in El Aaiun and Dakhla, a way of making a move in a conflict that is currently blocked at the United Nations, without any of the parties to the conflict (Morocco and the Polisario Front) showing the least willingness to give in to their positions. 

The consulates opened in Dakhla in recent days are those of Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau and Equatorial Guinea. Eswatini and Zambia, for their part, have opened their Consulates in El Ayoun.

The solution to the conflict in Western Sahara has been blocked by the impossibility of holding a referendum and Morocco's refusal to do so. Meanwhile, Morocco is proposing autonomy for the territory within the kingdom, a solution that is receiving greater support from the international community.

This Wednesday the vote was held on the extension of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO).