Washington DC - Morocco needs an intense diplomatic campaign to draw international attention to the United Nations and European Union’s double standers in tolerating Spain’s harsh crack down on Catalans rights to vote for independence while disparaging Morocco despite its more comprehensive attitudes in the western Sahara. An active Moroccan involvement in the Catalan conflict will not lessen Spain’s’ mistrust of its southern neighbor’s long-term intentions but will certainly dampen Madrid’s support of the Polisario.
Washington DC – Morocco needs an intense diplomatic campaign to draw international attention to the United Nations and European Union’s double standers in tolerating Spain’s harsh crack down on Catalans rights to vote for independence while disparaging Morocco despite its more comprehensive attitudes in the western Sahara. An active Moroccan involvement in the Catalan conflict will not lessen Spain’s’ mistrust of its southern neighbor’s long-term intentions but will certainly dampen Madrid’s support of the Polisario.
Footage of The Guardia Civil raiding the Catalan local government’s offices and news reports of the militarization of the Catalane region are dangerous developments and a new escalation in Madrid’s response to Barcelona’s upcoming referendum on independence. Yet, Moroccan officials, news outlets and civil society remain absent from this scene that should be a fertile theater for Rabat to solidify its positions in the Western Sahara conflict, the future of the occupied cities of Ceuta and Melilla, and the final demarcations of Morocco’s territorial waters.
The argument that Rabat should stay away from this Spanish “internal affair” is nothing but an excuse and an easy way out for the Moroccan diplomacy to explain its apathy. The Moroccan embassy in Madrid and the consulate in Barcelona should be present and active in following events, issuing statements and disseminating information. Rabat’s fears that its involvement would strain the relationship and push Madrid to take a harder stand in the Western Sahara conflict are overblown.
It is naïve if not negligent for the Moroccan officials to stay away from events in Barcelona. The developments in Catalonia have a direct impact on Morocco and on the future of Spanish-Moroccan relations.
From the final status of the two occupied enclaves to the boundaries of Morocco’s territorial waters in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, the two nations have a dicey and complex list of outstanding issues that need to be negotiated at one time or another. Thus, this is the ideal moment and a historic milestone for the Moroccans to engage the Spanish in talks over these crucial topics.
Making a stance for the right of the Catalans to vote for independence and following the developments of a political crisis in a neighboring country are normal diplomatic and political stands that are far from being interferences in the internal affairs of a sovereign state. Morocco could duplicate Spain’s approach to dealing with the Sahara affair and past crisis in Rabat.
It is a fact that the Spanish government and civil society have been instrumental in the advancement and expansion of the Algeria backed Sahrawi secessionist agenda in the Western Sahara. It would be hypocritical for Madrid that promoted the Polisario Front (Algeria supported guerilla movement fighting Morocco over the Western Sahara territory) drive for independence to condemn Morocco for calling out Madrid’s double standard in Catalonia. The Spaniards have to decide if they are for or against the right to self-determination.
In the name of self-rule for the Western Sahara, dozens of Spanish lawyers have attempted to force their way into Moroccan courts to defend Sahrawis separatists’ right to protest and express their views. Today, we do not see these Spanish lawyers denouncing the arrests of Catalan politicians and activists.
Ironically, the Spanish courts’ position that a Catalan independence referendum is illegal and unconstitutional on the grounds that all Spaniards need to vote for a constitutional amendments is very similar to Morocco’s stand on the United National attempts to hold a referendum on the self-determination for the Western Sahara.
Nonetheless, past Spanish governments, Socialist and right wing, rebuffed the Moroccan government positions disputing the Polisario’ s justification for a referendum based on the limited and unrepresentative voters’ lists established after the Spanish census of 1974.
Algeria and the Polisario may have gone too far in their endeavor for independence to negotiate effectively for a wider autonomy within Morocco. Yet, an autonomy plan for the Western Sahara remains the only viable resolution for the longest running conflict in Africa. The Catalans in Spain have given Rabat an excellent opportunity to achieve this goal, now it is up to the Moroccan diplomats to substantiate and demonstrate this reality.
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