South Africa has long been a major supporter of the separatist Polisario Front.
Rabat – The Moroccan embassy in South Africa has criticized a recent statement by the South African Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) about Morocco’s territorial integrity.
The South African DIRCO published a press release titled “South Africa Reiterates its Position on the Recognised Right to Self-Determination of the People of Western Sahara” on Monday, April 13.
The document described Morocco as an “occupying power” in Western Sahara and called on the North Africa country to “ensure the necessary access and unhindered passage of humanitarian and medical supplies to the territories that it occupies.”
In a statement issued today, April 14, the Moroccan embassy refuted the South African allegations, providing “irrefutable legal, political, and historical facts … illustrating the legitimacy of the cause of the Kingdom’s territorial integrity.”
In response to the claim that Morocco’s Western Sahara region is “the last colony in Africa,” the Moroccan representation in South Africa stressed that the UN, which exclusively manages the regional conflict, does not consider the region as a colony.
Nearly 70 Security Council resolutions and over 120 reports from UN Secretaries-General do not include any reference to the Western Sahara as an “occupied territory” or Morocco as an “occupying force,” the embassy recalled.
Therefore, the South African allegations have no legal basis and are solely based on a political and ideological opinion, added the statement.
Western Sahara has always been an integral part of Morocco’s territory long before the colonial era, recalled the document, citing several treaties signed in the 18th and 19th centuries.
While the South African DIRCO claimed that the International Court of Justice (ICJ) qualified Western Sahara as an occupied territory by Morocco, without citing a reference, the Moroccan embassy in Pretoria cited an advisory opinion by the ICJ that completely refutes the statement.
According to the embassy, the ICJ issued an advisory opinion on October 16, 1975, stressing that Western Sahara was not a terra nullius (nobody’s land) at the time of the Spanish colonization in 1884, and that ties of allegiance existed between the King of Morocco and the tribes of the region.
The political evolution of the issue also reinforces Morocco’s legitimacy in the conflict, as the majority of countries in the world express their support for the Moroccan efforts to settle the dispute.
As an elected member of the UN Security Council of Africa, South Africa must represent the African positions, added the Moroccan embassy.
Responding to the South African claims for a referendum as a means to settle the Western Sahara dispute, the embassy recalled that the UN has ruled out that option since 2004.
Morocco will continue the round table process with Algeria, Mauritania, and the Polisario Front as part of the UN-led political process, the statement continued, underlining the pre-eminence of Morocco’s Autonomy Plan as a “serious” and “credible” solution to the dispute.
The tense exchange between the Moroccan and South African diplomatic institutions comes after South Africa put itself at odds with the 14 other members of the UN Security Council on the Western Sahara issue.
On April 9, the Security Council held a video conference meeting to discuss a range of issues, including the Western Sahara conflict.
While all members of the council reiterated their support for the UN-led political process in Western Sahara, South Africa backed the separatist Polisario Front.
South Africa, like Algeria, has long been a major African supporter of the Polisario Front.
Morocco’s Autonomy Plan has received praise from a large number of states. The initiative suggests making Western Sahara a completely autonomous region, on the condition that it remains under Moroccan sovereignty.
In recent months, Morocco has made unprecedented diplomatic gains in the region, with 10 African states materializing their support for Morocco’s territorial integrity by opening diplomatic representations in the southern cities of Laayoune and Dakhla.
On the international level, the UN Security Council has called for negotiations between all concerned parties to reach a political solution.
Morocco, Algeria, Mauritania, and the Polisario Front have already met twice at a round table in Geneva, Switzerland, in December 2018 and March 2019. At the end of the second meeting, the parties agreed to take part in a third discussion in the same format.