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Opinion

The Saharawis of Podemos

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Pablo Iglesias published an article in CTXT on 19 March entitled "Sánchez, the Saharawis and Unidas Podemos", which surprises and disconcerts those who are closely acquainted with the issue of the former Spanish Sahara and deserves to be commented on.

First, when Pablo Iglesias refers to "the Saharawis" in the title of the article, he is actually referring in a concrete way, without saying so, to the Polisario and not to the majority of Saharawis who are in the Sahara and live in freedom exercising their democratic rights.  He refers to the "Saharawis" in Tindouf, under the tutelage and command of the military in Algiers. They are "the Saharawis" who nobody knows how many there are and whether they are really all Saharawis from the former Spanish Sahara as they are made out to be. The UN has been demanding for years to be allowed to carry out a census, but Algeria refuses. The issue is an enigma and a secret known only to the Algerian military regime.

With regard to the content of the article, Pablo Iglesias accuses Pedro Sánchez of having "dealt a sharp blow to the right of the Saharawis to be free through the exercise of the right to self-determination, which the UN recognised on 29 April 1991 with resolution 690".

Calling Pedro Sánchez's decision a "stab at the right of the Saharawis" of the Polisario, which for Iglesias is the people of the Sahara, is an insult and contempt for the military regime of Algeria, the guardian, master and tutor of the "Saharawi cause" and of "the Saharawis" of the Polisario, being the real party to the conflict. It has spent more than 500 billion dollars on the "cause" and currently spends 1 billion dollars annually (half of which is earmarked for military expenditure and is included in the Algerian army's budget). So it is not some poor, defenceless people who have been easily stabbed. 

On the other hand, Pablo Iglesias in his argumentation refers to an outdated resolution, so remote that it dates back to 1991, a date even before the dismantling of the USSR. Subsequent events made it outdated and any reference to that resolution is misleading.  

For decades, UN resolutions have made no reference to the referendum on self-determination. After 2004, no Security Council resolution makes any reference to it. The reason for this is that the UN was unable to determine on the ground who the Saharawi people were entitled to vote.  Since the referendum is only one of the means of exercising self-determination and not the only one, the Security Council abandoned it, settling in its resolutions to encourage the parties to reach "a realistic, viable and lasting political solution based on compromise", always within the framework of self-determination. 

Moreover, in order to overcome the deadlock and find a way out of the impasse in the Sahara dispute, Morocco presented its proposal in 2007 based on broad autonomy. It was inspired by the first draft of the plan, known as Baker I or the Framework Agreement. Since the presentation of the Moroccan initiative, all Security Council resolutions since that date read: "Taking note of the Moroccan proposal presented to the Secretary-General on 11 April 2007 and welcoming Morocco's serious and credible efforts to move the process forward towards a solution". 

The US representative to the UN, who calls the shots, being the drafter of the resolutions on the dispute, when explaining his country's vote in favour of the adopted resolutions, always refers to the proposal presented by Morocco, which he praises and offers him the first choice as a solution. This is also the position of the representative of France and Great Britain as well as the rest of the members of the Security Council. The sensible thing for Pablo Iglesias to do, therefore, is not to refer to an outdated resolution but to the most recent one, resolution 2602 of 29 October 2021. Let us quote a few paragraphs from this resolution and with it we can see the reasons behind the fact that we are still stuck in the times of the USSR. 

In this resolution, the Council reaffirms its commitment to "assist the parties to reach a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution, based on compromise, which will provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara". While in another paragraph, it emphasises "the need to reach a political solution to the question of Western Sahara that is realistic, viable, lasting and acceptable to all parties and based on compromise...".  

Ultimately, it calls for "a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution which will provide 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, and notes the role and responsibilities of the parties in this respect”. 

In this resolution, as in previous ones, it reiterates once again that the Security Council takes "note of the Moroccan proposal submitted to the Secretary-General on 11 April 2007 and welcoming Morocco's serious and credible efforts to move the process forward towards a solution and taking note also of the proposal submitted to the Secretary-General by the Frente POLISARIO on 10 April 2007".  

This important paragraph refers to the proposal presented by Morocco, based on a broad autonomy where all the criteria required by the Security Council are included, which, thanks to negotiations in good faith and constructive contributions from the parties, will improve the project and become, thanks to compromise, the acceptable and lasting political solution for all. This would lead to self-determination in accordance with the principles of the UN Charter, which the UN reiterates in its resolutions.  

In UN diplomatic language, the Security Council, which represents the international community and from which international legality emanates, clearly favours in this resolution the solution based on autonomy presented by Morocco and offers it the first negotiating position to reach a realistic and lasting solution based on compromise. It is a third way as a win-win option, replacing the outdated referendum provided for in the Settlement Plan (Resolution 690/1991), which is based on maximalist options, with winners and losers, and which would ultimately lead to another conflict.