The Jordanian politician drew attention to Algeria’s role in the conflict, recalling UN Security Council resolution 2494 and the vital importance of active Algerian engagement in the peace process.
Rabat- Jordan has reaffirmed its clear position on the Western Sahara conflict in a public broadcast. In the “Sahara Debate,” Jordanian politician Hazem Qashou and international lawyer and arbitrator Dr. Omar Aljazy shone the spotlight on Morocco’s legal and historical sovereignty over Western Sahara, clearly setting out the history of the conflict and the legal grounding of the Moroccan position.
Aljazy first drew attention to Morocco’s legal standpoint in Western Sahara. He explained that Morocco has acted fully “in accordance with the provisions of international law” and that the country’s efforts to protect and preserve its territorial integrity are grounded in both international law and historical fact.
The majority of commentators and observers of the Western Sahara conflict remain ignorant of the historical and legal context of the ongoing dispute, Aljazy emphasized. He explained that the International Court of Justice recognizes Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara.
On October 16, 1975, the court ruled that when Spain colonized Moroccan Sahara in 1884 the region was not a “terra nullius,” meaning that, within the provisions of international law, the region was not unoccupied or uninhabited.
At the time of Spanish colonization, Morocco held strong bonds of allegiance, culture, and politics with the tribes of the region. The historical links between what is now recognized as Morocco and the region known as Western Sahara are inextricable and pre-date the Almoravid Dynasty’s rise to power in the 11th Century and the first steps towards unifying Morocco as a state.
Aljazy explained in the broadcast that Morocco’s rich and diverse culture is marked by pluralism, diversity, and a tribal tradition. He emphasized that the language and the social fabric of Morocco cannot be separated from its shared history with Western Sahara.
Morocco’s development plan in Dakhla, Laayoune
Shifting his view to 2020, Aljazy pointed to Morocco’s development program in its southern provinces and the efforts King Mohammed VI has taken to revive the cities of Dakhla and Laayoune, mitigating the slowed progress caused by years of conflict.
Aljazy cited the inauguration of diplomatic missions from African states in the two cities as a testament to the tangible and rapid development of the two cities into economic and diplomatic hubs. The Jordanian lawyer also noted that a number of countries from outside the African continent are already considering opening their own consulates in the cities in the coming months.
King Mohammed VI launched the New Development Model for Western Sahara in 2015 in order to develop the infrastructure in the region and support the population. The budget for ongoing projects in the region exceeds $7 billion.
In 2018, chairman of the French Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Morocco (CFCIM) Philippe-Edern Klein called the region an “ideal hub” for business and investment ventures in Africa.
In September 2019, the Government Council adopted Decree 2.19.737 to establish a committee to oversee the construction of the Dakhla Atlantic port.
Morocco pledged a budget of MAD 10 billion ($1 billion) for the project in addition to other budgets to set up development plans to enhance the region’s investment potential.
Qashou, the former Jordanian Minister for Municipal Affairs and current Secretary-General of the Al-Rissala Party, echoed his countryman’s comments on the ongoing development in Dakhla and Laayoune.
“We are discussing a Moroccan regional situation that we have witnessed and have experienced together whenever we visit the Sahara in Laayoune and Dakhla, through which we were also able to see the level of development,” he explained during the debate.
The politician emphasized Morocco’s commitment to protecting its territorial integrity and the interests of the population: “We can see that also through our readings and through our discussions with the public that show to what extent all Moroccans want the preservation of their territorial integrity,” he said.
The United Nations and the Autonomy Plan
The former minister underlined that Morocco has worked tirelessly since 1963 to secure its territorial integrity, when the North African country began to actively negotiate for the Spanish withdrawal from the occupied territories.
The Madrid Accords, approved by the UN secretary-general and the United Nations General Assembly, affirmed that Morocco had achieved its territorial integrity by recovering Western Sahara from Spain in 1975, the former minister explained. He emphasized that, considering this fact, Morocco is well within its rights to continue to campaign for international recognition of its sovereignty over the region.
After showcasing Morocco’s efforts to develop Laayoune and Dakhla into economic hubs and underlining Morocco’s historic and legal right to sovereignty over Western Sahara, Qashou focussed his analysis on Morocco’s Autonomy Plan and the UN-led peace process in Western Sahara.
The Jordanian politician emphasized that the Moroccan Autonomy Plan, submitted to the UN in 2007, is a “courageous initiative,” calling the plan the only possible route to a political, fair solution to the decades-long dispute.
The Autonomy Plan proposes a system of devolved government, whereby Sahrawis in the region would have the right to elect their own representatives for regional government with over-arching support from the central government in Rabat.
The plan would, therefore, grant autonomy to the Sahrawis, while allowing Morocco to preserve its territorial integrity and continue to economically support the development of the region.
Qashou praised Morocco’s consistent and proactive engagement in the UN-led peace process, recalling the UN Security Council’s latest resolution in which it called on all parties in the conflict to continue to engage actively in the dialogue.
Resolution 2494 named Morocco, Mauritania, the Polisario Front, and Algeria as active parties in the conflict and called on Algeria, a self-styled observer in the conflict, to take part in the peace process in order to achieve a lasting solution based on compromise.
Jordan is among a growing number of countries to recognize Morocco’s autonomy plan as a pragmatic and actionable solution to the conflict, including Brazil, Liberia, Cote D’Ivoire, Colombia, and Chile.
In May, Senior Zambian political officer Grace Njapau Efrati, former Deputy Minister of the Interior and a member of Parliament (MP) reiterated the African nation’s support for the initiative.
“The present state of play on this issue is a direct result of an American initiative in 1999 to change course on how best to resolve the problem. The abandonment of the referendum option has been an American policy initiative, not a Moroccan one, and it took a very difficult internal political debate for Morocco to follow the American request to propose autonomy for the Sahara,” the 2007 document outlines.
However, as more and more countries declare their support for Morocco’s vision for peace, Algeria and the Polisario Front continue to campaign and lobby against Rabat at an international level in order to stall any potential resolution to the conflict.
While Morocco is adhering fully to the UN-led process and rulings in the region, the onus is on the Polisario and their long-term ally Algeria to actively engage in the peace process and put the needs and best interests of the Sahrawi people above their own.