Washington DC - Every year, as time approaches the UN Security Council consultations on the Western Sahara conflict, Moroccan officials start a flurry of diplomatic activities to counter any “possible” negative outcomes.
Washington DC – Every year, as time approaches the UN Security Council consultations on the Western Sahara conflict, Moroccan officials start a flurry of diplomatic activities to counter any “possible” negative outcomes.
Unfortunately, seldom do these actions succeed in finding a lasting resolution to this simmering regional dispute. It may be time for Rabat to go back to the drawing board and review its initial positions and revisit early agreements made with the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO).
This year, again, Moroccan officials are condemning UN Personal Envoy of the Secretary General, Christopher Ross, biases. They are worried about an enlargement to the MINURSO mandate to include human rights monitoring. However, the problem is not Mr. Ross or the MUNURSO mandate, but rather Morocco’s blurred positions on some key initial elements of its arrangements with the UN.
A prime example would be Rabat’s “accord” to deal directly with the Polisario separatists. King Hassan II agreed to meet with the rebel group under a different regional and international climate than what his son King Mohammed VI is facing today. The late King never intended to recognize the Polisario as a legitimate representative of the Sahrawi people.
King Hassan received the Polisario leaders in 1989 as Moroccans and not Sahrawi. He made that decision after then Algeria’s President Benjedid promised to let the separatists decide their own fate without outside interferences.
King Hassan and President Benjedid were on the path to reconciliation. Both leaders knew that their differences over the Western Sahara must be put to rest for peace to come back to the Maghreb. Unfortunately, Algerian Intelligence Agency (DRS) was not happy with this arrangement, one of many of Benjedid democratic reforms that rattled the Algerian army, and moved to dislodge him.
As such, it is paramount to revisit the legality of Polisario’s claim as the representative of the people of the Western Sahara and Morocco’s stand on it. King Mohammed VI is not bound with every aspect of the MINURSO deal, since it was not sealed under his reign or under the rule of Algeria’s current President.
Morocco’s view that “the Polisario continues to stonewall on the issue, refusing to compromise and choosing instead to threaten the whole process with regular calls to resume armed conflict” is pitiful. Moroccan diplomats should hold Algeria, and not Polisario, responsible for the impasse and make the MUNURSO face this fact.
In the last few years, Morocco has struggled to find appropriate responses to some of the UN positions in the Western Sahara conflict. Aside from displays of outrage, indignation and concern to UN reports deemed hostile by Rabat’s, Moroccan diplomats, with the notable exception of Ambassador Omar Hilal in New York, seem inconsistent and incoherent in their dealings with the MUNIRSO’s predispositions. After years of intensive lobbying and millions of dollars spent on public relations efforts, the Kingdom’s message in New York and Washington remains muffled.
Rabat’s latest attempt to formulate a response will face the same fate. It will go nowhere and stay subdued in the midst of Algeria’s stealth media counter-offensive. This strategy has to change, and the message and the messengers must look and sound different.
There are NO serious underlying differences between Morocco and the MINURSO mission and mandate. More than often, it is Moroccan diplomats’ contradictions and their lack of grasp about basic tenants of the Western Sahara conflict that leads to MINURSO staffs’ misunderstandings and frustration.
Morocco’s trouble in New York and Washington will not be solved by throwing money at lobbying firms. Charting a clear and coherent diplomatic plan to explain the history of the Western Sahara and the root causes of the conflict is the only way out of this impasse. Training diplomats with deep understanding of the dossier is another obvious requirement.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy
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