Palestine’s Ambassador to Algeria, Amine Ramzi Makboul, has angered Moroccans after expressing support for the outdated self-determination referendum proposal as a solution to the Western Sahara dispute.
“It is necessary to hold a referendum, which the UN decided, to know where things are going,” Makboul said in an interview with Algerian newspaper El Wassat, published on Sunday, November 15.
“We should accelerate the organization of a referendum in the region to know what the Saharawi people want, whether they want to be autonomous, or join [Morocco], or an independent state,” he continued. “It is up to them.”
The head of Palestine’s diplomatic mission in Algeria made the statement while commenting on Morocco’s military intervention in Guerguerat, near the Moroccan-Mauritanian border, to lift a blockade by the separatist Polisario Front.
Makboul said that Palestine’s position on the Western Sahara issue is “clear” and “supports the UN-led process.”
However, his declaration in favor of the self-determination referendum plainly contradicts all recent resolutions of the UN Security Council. The council has not mentioned the referendum approach in its resolutions about Western Sahara since the start of the political process in 2007.
Instead, the recent resolutions of the Security Council have all welcomed Morocco’s “serious and credible efforts” to resolve the territorial dispute.
Makboul’s statements not only contradict the UN’s resolutions, but also Palestine’s official position on the conflict.
In a recent statement, the Palestinian Embassy in Rabat announced that “the official position of the Palestinian leadership is constant and supports Morocco’s territorial integrity.”
The Palestinian ambassador’s declarations angered Moroccans, especially because Morocco has constantly defended the Palestinian cause and supported Palestinians in their struggle against Israeli occupation.
Some commentators on social networks accused Palestine’s ambassador of “being a puppet” of Algeria’s government, which supports the separatist Polisario Front and the self-determination referendum.
They also called on Palestine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to clearly express its position regarding the Western Sahara issue, in light of the conflicting statements from the Palestinian diplomatic missions in Rabat and Algiers.
Soon after controversy emerged from the interview with El Wassat, the Palestinian Embassy in Algiers issued a clarifying statement saying that Makboul “has never disregarded the declarations of the Palestinian Embassy in Morocco.”
The statement, however, did not retract the ambassador’s remarks about the “necessity of holding a referendum.”
On Monday afternoon, the Palestinian foreign ministry finally commented on the controversy and adopted a neutral position, not favoring any statements over the others.
“In light of what media has reported regarding statements attributed to Palestine’s ambassadors to the brotherly Kingdom of Morocco and the brotherly People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria, Palestine confirms its traditional and firm position that it does not interfere in the internal affairs of the brotherly Arab countries and that any statements saying otherwise do not represent it,” the Palestinian foreign ministry said.