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France backs Morocco on Western Sahara issue

Eliseo has expressed support for Moroccan autonomy over Western Sahara, calling it "a basis" for building "serious and credible talks"
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PHOTO/REUTERS  -   Boudjdour refugee camp in Tindouf, southern Algeria

The autonomy plan for Western Sahara is "the most serious and realistic basis". This was stated by the Spanish president, Pedro Sánchez, in a letter addressed to the Moroccan king, Mohamed VI, thus putting an end to a diplomatic conflict with Morocco that has entered its tenth month. The letter, published by Rabat, highlighted one of the key issues in the conflict between the two kingdoms: Spain's position on Western Sahara.

With this letter, Spain took a historic step in this resolution, thus supporting the autonomy proposal defended by Rabat and supported by other countries such as the United States and the United Arab Emirates. This position is now openly joined by France, which has seen Moroccan autonomy as an alternative that takes steps towards putting an end to the Western Sahara conflict. 

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PHOTO/PALACIO REAL DE MARRUECOS  -   Fotografía de archivo, Pedro Sánchez, es recibido por el Rey de Marruecos Mohammed VI antes de su almuerzo en el Palacio Real de Rabat, Marruecos, el lunes 19 de noviembre de 2018

French President Emmanuel Macron has said that Morocco's proposed autonomy plan for Western Sahara is "a basis" on which "serious and credible talks" can be built. However, he avoided assessing the Spanish government's political turnaround on this provision, limiting himself to stating his position.

Thus, the French Foreign Ministry has argued that the French position on the Moroccan proposal "is constant", and that "a fair, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution" must be achieved. France, Morocco's ally, reiterates that this is the basis on which negotiations can begin.

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AFP/YOAN VALAT  -   French President Emmanuel Macron

Moreover, a diplomatic spokeswoman said, the Elysée is in favour of "good relations" between European countries and their "neighbours" in the Mediterranean. The spokeswoman was also questioned on the crisis that has erupted between Spain and Algeria as a result of Madrid's new position. According to her statements, she advocates resolving this new disagreement through dialogue in which "common interests" are defended.

In this shift in Spanish foreign policy, it is not known whether Spain informed Algiers, which is why it is now feared that Algeria will either approve a rise in gas prices to Spain or decide to cut off its supply, as it has already done with Morocco. Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares declared after a meeting with his European counterparts that 'diplomacy requires discretion' and that 'communications between Spain and Morocco are bilateral. Exclusively". 

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PHOTO/Gobierno de España  - The UN Special Envoy for Western Sahara, Staffan de Mistura, receives the Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation, José Manuel Albares, in Brussels.

These new statements by Albares clashed head-on with those issued a day after the announcement. These, as reported by EFE, indicated that "Algiers was previously informed", according to government sources. "For Spain, Algeria is a strategic, priority and reliable partner with which we intend to maintain a privileged position", they concluded.

On the other hand, the European Commission has shown its support for Spain's new stance. This was evidenced by the government's Foreign Affairs spokesperson, Nabila Massrali, who pointed out that 'the European Union welcomes all positive developments between its member states and Morocco in their bilateral relationship, which can only be beneficial for the implementation of the Euro-Moroccan association agreement as a whole'

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PHOTO/ONU/LOEY FELIPE  -   Archive photo of a Security Council meeting

Germany also continued to reiterate its support for Moroccan sovereignty. German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier stated that the autonomy plan presented in 2007 "is a serious and credible effort" and that it is a good basis for a settlement of this regional conflict.

However, this decision differs substantially from the UN's position. After learning of the new Spanish disposition, the organisation has rejected the new disposition and defends that "the conflict should be resolved in a political process under its guidelines". They recall that the solution must be framed "within the framework of a full commitment by the parties to the political process facilitated by the UN", i.e. resolution 2602, which "upholds its commitment to assist the parties to reach a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution, based on compromise, which provides for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara in the framework of arrangements consistent with the principles and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations".