Morocco asks Europe for clearer support for Western Sahara

The Alaouite Kingdom and the United States have organised an international telematic conference in support of the proposal for autonomy for the Saharan region under Moroccan sovereignty
The Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Nasser Bourita

PHOTO/AP  -   The Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Nasser Bourita

On the occasion of the international virtual conference organised by Morocco and the United States to support the proposal of autonomy for the region of Western Sahara within the sovereignty of the Moroccan country, the foreign minister of the North African country, Nasser Bourita, urged Europe to give greater support to Morocco in the face of the Saharan question.

"Europe must leave the comfort zone, the comfort zone of saying 'there is a process (of negotiation) and we support it', although this process could last for decades," said Nasser Bourita, who indicated that Europe must be "in the international dynamic driven by the United States" to support autonomy for the Sahara within Moroccan sovereignty over the territory.

The Alaoui foreign minister acknowledged that there are several European countries that have shown themselves to be in favour of Moroccan sovereignty over the Sahara, and also agreements signed on behalf of the European Union that recognise the territory of the Sahara as Moroccan, but he called for clearer support. "Today we need a movement from the whole of Europe to support the only possible perspective for settling the Sahara question, autonomy within the framework of Moroccan sovereignty", said Bourita.

An important part of the attention in this case was focused on Spain as Morocco's neighbour and once the metropolis of the Western Sahara region, which has given it a prominent role in this issue. Questioned about the Spanish case, Bourita said: "We must ask him why he was not there today", referring to the conference in support of autonomy, as reported by the EFE agency, in relation to the Spanish absence from the conclave. 

At this meeting, it was made clear that only political negotiation can resolve the confrontation between Morocco and the Polisario Front, and that after nearly three decades of stagnation in the search for a solution, it is understood that it is time to reinvigorate the talks under the framework of the Moroccan autonomy plan and also in line with the supervision of the United Nations Organisation, which is aligned with this proposal. 

The Moroccan foreign minister did not deny the validity of the negotiations on the conflict-now frozen-but stated that for Rabat it is necessary to clarify before sitting down at a table "with whom we are negotiating" and "what we are negotiating", specifying that any solution must involve Moroccan autonomy.

The only European country that took part in the international conference to support Morocco's position was France, which is Morocco's traditional ally on the issue of Western Sahara and, thanks to its permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, systematically manages to block any resolution that is contrary to or critical of Rabat.

The conference brought together 40 countries, mainly from Africa, the Arab world, Central America and the Caribbean, which expressed one after another their support for Moroccan autonomy over the Sahara, repeatedly described as "a serious, credible, realistic and lasting option", as well as "the only possible solution".

The event was organised by the United States and Morocco and was held during the last days of the mandate of Donald Trump's executive, who surprised the world on 10 December by announcing a tripartite agreement whereby his country recognised the "Moroccanness" of the Sahara and Morocco re-established relations with Israel.

Entrada del futuro Consulado General de Estados Unidos en Dajla
Entry of the future US Consulate General in Dakhla

The impetus received by Morocco thanks to American support has further strengthened the kingdom's strong position with respect to sovereignty over Western Sahara in view of the conflict that has been going on for years with the Polisario Front, which advocated holding a referendum on independence, an option that no longer has practically any international support and is totally out of the question compared to the more realistic proposal of an autonomous status within the Moroccan kingdom, which has more and more support. 

Such is the support of the United States that the Under-Secretary of State for the Middle East and North Africa, David Schenker, himself co-chaired the virtual conference held this day alongside Bourita himself, before giving the floor to a dozen countries from various continents on behalf of the 40 participants.

Last weekend Schenker himself visited El Aaiún and Dakhla, the two largest Saharan cities, and confirmed that his country will soon open a consulate in Dajla, thus joining the 20 countries attached to the United Nations that have opened consular offices in either city in recent months, including nations of the importance of the United Arab Emirates, one of the key players in the Middle East region and which also established diplomatic ties with Israel following the initiative promoted by the United States government of Donald Trump. Indeed, at the international conference in support of the initiative for autonomy for the Sahara under Moroccan sovereignty it was recognised that this opening of consulates will promote economic and business opportunities in the region.