“It [Western Sahara] was something that anybody, regardless if they were an Algerian waiter or an Algerian minister, it was brought up,” said Cooper.
Rabat – The Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs, Clarke Cooper, visited Algeria as part of his Maghreb tour from February 27 to March 4.
Algerians expressed concerns regarding the potential shifts in the US position on Western Sahara, the official revealed.
The officials and ordinary people he encountered during his visit all inquired about the shift, Cooper recalled.
“I’m including not just ministers; this would be just people—as you all know, in the public sphere that’s a conversation, it’s a very robust discourse on the entire continent about our commitment.”
The question emerged during every encounter he had, he stressed.
“It didn’t matter if I was getting a cup of coffee or if it was in a ministerial meeting.”
Cooper said that Algeria wants to guarantee a US position in line with the Algerian agenda on the conflict.
For years, Algiers has backed the independence claims of the self-styled Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic’s separatist group, the Polisario Front. Algeria also arms and finances the breakaway group and shelters Polisario-run camps.
“Their concern is if they want to be closer to us, they want to make sure that they see that commitment,” he explained.
“If you look at Algeria’s historic relationships with Russia, there has certainly been some fanning of the flames. There’s been some disruption that is certainly being proliferated by Russian narratives of our commitment to that space.”
Cooper clarified that the “space” he was referring to is Western Sahara.
Over the past three years, Morocco’s government expressed satisfaction with the development in the conflict, especially at the level of the UN-led political process.
While Algeria continues to deny its involvement in the conflict, the UN Security Council Resolution 2494 of October 2019 references Algeria five times: Three times in the preamble and twice in operative paragraphs.
The text of the resolution refers to the necessity of Algeria to assume responsibility in the conflict and the need for the country to engage in the political process as a main party and not an observer.
The Algerian government, however, continues to identify itself as merely an observer, claiming that the conflict should be solved between Morocco and the Polisario Front.
Algeria’s concerns over the potential US shift in the conflict come in a politically charged context.
In November 2019, a report emerged from the Wall Street Journal quoting US officials in August, who said that Washington will never support the creation of a state in southern Morocco.
Meanwhile, Morocco’s government has been reaping development achievements in recent weeks after several African states decided to open general consulates in Laayoune.
In response, the Algerian government has been releasing condemnatory statements, criticizing Morocco and the African countries that have declared their support for Morocco’s territorial integrity.