Portuguese personalities call on the government to support Morocco's sovereignty in the Sahara

They argue that the Moroccan autonomy initiative is the only lasting solution to the conflict
PHOTO/AFP  -   Embajador de los Estados Unidos ante un mapa de Marruecos en el que se reconoce el territorio del Sahara Occidental

PHOTO/AFP  -   US Ambassador in front of a Moroccan map recognising the territory of Western Sahara

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, 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 consequence of this escalation of tension, the Western Sahara conflict once again became the focus of international media attention. Another decisive event that has served to put the Sahara back in the spotlight has been 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 objective of promoting economic and commercial opportunities in the region".

Months after this announcement, and with the arrival 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 addressed, on 26 February, a letter to the current US president, Joe Biden, in which they expressed 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.

Now, several members of Portuguese political parties and personalities, among them the former Minister of Foreign Affairs and Deputy Prime Minister Paulo Portas, wrote a letter to the Prime Minister, in his capacity as President of the European Council, Rebelo de Sousa, in which they ask Europe to support the integrity of the Kingdom of Morocco and the Saharawi provinces. Especially in order to avoid the destabilisation of the Maghreb, carried out by the Polisario.


Among the signatories of this letter are José Luís Arnaut, former deputy minister under Durão Barroso, António Figueiredo Lopes, former interior minister, and members of the PSD and PS, including Paulo Neves, Luís Leite Ramos (both PSD) and Jorge Lacão (PS). "We believe you will agree that a stable and prosperous Maghreb is an imperative and an objective that deserves Portugal's and Europe's full attention," they write in their letter to António Costa. They also express their concern about the dire consequences that an indefinite prolongation of the status quo and a political stalemate in "Western Sahara" could have.

"In fact, this situation has recently been aggravated by the destabilising acts carried out by the Polisario independence group in a highly strategic area whose stability is closely linked to that of the African continent, the Sahel region and even the Mediterranean basin," they say.

Finally, they recall that the United States and several other states have recently recognised Morocco's sovereignty over its Saharawi provinces and the opening, by some twenty countries, of consulates in the cities of El Ayoun and Dakhla. They also point out in the letter that Morocco is a "friendly" country, with which we share a common maritime border and "political and economic interests", should follow this dynamic and, under its presidency of the Council of the European Union, lead Europe to adopt much more constructive positions.