On 15 January last, a meeting was held by videoconference at the highest level between representatives of numerous states under the slogan 'Ministerial Conference in Support of the Autonomy Initiative under Moroccan Sovereignty'.
The conference, organised by Morocco and the United States, was attended by 40 countries represented by members of their respective governments, 27 of them at ministerial level. Apart from the US representation, the most notable participation was undoubtedly that of France, the only European country to take part in the conference.
The participants in the conference made a unanimous commitment to continue defending a solution based solely on the Moroccan autonomy initiative for the solution of the Sahara conflict. They also highlighted and praised the projects initiated in the region, especially those of the "New Model of Development of the Southern Provinces", whose progress is accentuating the interest of the Moroccan government in transforming a wasteland into a region with possibilities of wealth and prosperity for the Saharawi population.
On the political side, most of the participants recalled the recognition of the United States of America on 10 December 2020, supporting the Moroccan proposal for autonomy as serious, credible and realistic, considering it as the only basis for a just and lasting solution to the conflict. Another of the most relevant conclusions expressed at this summit by some of its participants was that "the question of the Moroccan Sahara is at a new turning point with clear objectives and parameters".
At this conference, which had a notable presence of Latin American countries, in addition to highlighting the US presidential proclamation, the efforts to be made from now on to advance the political process under the exclusive auspices of the UN, for a political solution with the Autonomy initiative as the only realistic and feasible basis, were recalled.
At this international meeting, the decision of 20 UN Member States to open Consulates General in the cities of El Ayoun and Dakhla was highlighted, considering that these measures will promote economic and commercial opportunities in the region. In this regard, a US delegation composed of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, African Cooperation and Moroccans Living Abroad, Nasser Bourita, the US Assistant Secretary of State for Near East and North Africa, David Schenker, and the US Ambassador to Rabat, David Fischer, has already travelled to Dakhla in recent days to determine the site for the construction of the new American Consulate. This action is part of Morocco's large diplomatic deployment among the countries already installed, nine of which are in El Ayoun and seven in Dakhla.
The participants hope that these measures will also reinforce the region's vocation as an economic hub for the entire continent, and will make it possible to reach a long-awaited definitive political solution to this conflict that has been going on for several decades.
As mentioned above, Latin American countries were particularly relevant in their actions on the Sahara issue. Among others, to cite a few examples, the Foreign Minister of the Dominican Republic, Roberto Álvarez, who participated in the presentation of the Autonomy Plan, and the Foreign Relations Committee of the Chilean Chamber of Deputies, which unanimously approved, for the first time, the text in support of the Moroccan initiative.
It now remains to be seen what will happen after the inauguration of the Biden Administration, or the possible holding of the high-level bilateral Spanish-Moroccan summit, postponed from last December to next February. In the absence of news on the alleged war that, according to the Polisario, is being waged in the Sahara, these events, among others, will mark some of the steps to be taken and the current events on this issue in the coming days. On the first of these, and despite the statements by James Baker and John Bolton, they do not seem to be enough to make Biden backtrack on the US recognition of Morocco's sovereignty over Western Sahara.