The COVID-19 pandemic could not stop Morocco’s diplomacy, which triumphed in securing more support for Rabat’s position on Western Sahara.
Rabat – The year 2020 was difficult for many due to the COVID-19 crisis and its consequences, directly impacting socio-economic dynamics in Morocco and across the world.
This year, however, did bring several developments favoring Morocco’s cause in its defense of its territorial integrity and sovereignty over Western Sahara. Morocco made several achievements in the dossier, despite a lack of progress at the UN level to find a political solution to end the regional dispute.
Morocco World News is listing a set of highlights to celebrate the major achievements the Moroccan government and diplomacy gained regarding Western Sahara during the year 2020, despite the COVID-19 crisis and its impacts.
The timeline begins with the latest developments and reviews key points that will make their mark on Morocco’s history.
The most recent major development comes on December 10. The date will remain one of the most important in US-Morocco history. It marks the decision of the US to recognize Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara.
Weeks before leaving the White House, US President Trump announces a decision to recognize Morocco’s sovereignty, recalling the potential of the Moroccan Autonomy Plan as the serious, credible, and realistic solution to end the regional conflict over Western Sahara.
Undivided US map of Morocco
December 12 marks the US government’s decision to adopt an undivided Moroccan map of Morocco, including its southern provinces.
Traditionally, the US used a map with a line that excluded Morocco’s southern provinces. Following Trump’s decision to recognize Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara, the US Ambassador to Rabat announces the move, saying the map will be a gift for King Mohammed VI.
Several Arab and non-Arab countries express support for the US decision.
Kuwait, Bahrain, UAE, and Oman issue press releases to congratulate Morocco for the latest development, commending the US for its support of Moroccan territorial integrity.
Zambia and Eswatini also express support for Morocco’s sovereignty over its southern provinces.
France’s Foreign Ministry calls for an end to the Western Sahara conflict, emphasizing Morocco’s Autonomy Plan as a serious and credible basis for discussions.
For France, the conflict over Western Sahara has lasted too long and poses a risk of permanent tensions.
DR Congo opens consulate in Dakhla
Recently, a growing list of countries inaugurated diplomatic representations in southern Morocco, reflecting unwavering support for Morocco’s territorial integrity;
Democratic Republic of Congo joins the growing list of countries opening consulates in the Western Sahara region. The Central African country opens its consulate in Dakhla on December 19.
DRC’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Marie Tumba Nzeza applauds the decision, saying that the opening of a consulate in Dakhla marks a new state of bilateral relations.
Kuwait reiterates support
Several countries from all continents express support on different occasions. The Foreign Affairs Ministry of Kuwait issues a statement on December 13 commending the US’ decision to recognize Morocco’s full sovereignty over Western Sahara
“This step contributes to reaching a just and lasting solution to the dispute over the Moroccan Sahara,” writes the Kuwaiti ministry.
Bahrain and Haiti express unwavering support
On December 14, Bahrain’s government inaugurates its consulate in Laayoune, southern Morocco. Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif Bin Rashid Al Zayani says the consulate constitutes a “historic step” in the centuries-old relationship between Bahrain and Morocco.
Bahrain also expresses support for the US’ decision to recognize Morocco’s sovereignty over Wesern Sahara.
On December 12, Haiti also opens a consulate general in Morocco’s Dakhla.
November: For a peaceful Guerguerat
In the last few weeks of November, Morocco receives dozens of congratulatory messages from a score of countries. Morocco’s peaceful action to lift a three week blockade in Guerguerat, near the Mauritanian-Moroccan border, earns growing support.
The blockade cut off cross-border civil and commercial traffic.
On November 13, Morocco mobilizes its Royal Armed Forces personnel in the Guerguerat buffer zone to restore peace in the region after Polisario sent militias to stage illegal protess. They successfully restore traffic and stability without employing violence.
Saudi Arabia, UAE, Oman, and various countries in the Gulf start sending supporting statements to Morocco for its decision to act and bring peace to the region.
Different countries in Africa, including Gabon, Burkina Faso, Malawi, Cape Verde, and Cote D’Ivoire, also join the growing list of supporters from the continent.
The Moroccan diaspora, including the Jewish community, also celebrates Morocco’s peaceful operation.
In addition to Morocco’s army, Moroccan media and citizens confirm full support through their mobilization to counter fake news reports from Algerian and Polisario media.
Algerian news agencies and other pro-Poliario outlets falsify a war that never happened to create tension.
The month of November also brings good news regarding the premier cause for Morocco. On November 19, Jordan’s government announces its decision to open a consulate in Laayoune.
King Abdullah II of Jordan shares the news during a phone call with Morocco’s monarch, reaffirming his country’s steadfast support for Morocco’s territorial integrity.
November marks an important time for all Moroccans. The month commemorates the anniversary of the Green March, a peaceful protest that took place in 1975. At the request of King Hassan II, Moroccans marched to force Spanish colonizers to leave Morocco’s southern provinces.
Days following the anniversary of the Green March on November 6, another country decides to withdraw recognition of self-proclaimed SADR.
Guyana publishes its decision on November 14, joining a list of over 164 other countries who withdrew recognition of the Polisario Front.
November 4 is also an important date for Morocco, as the UAE concretizes its decision to open a consulate in Laayoune. The move follows a call between King Mohammed VI and UAE Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan in October.
October: Momentum for Morocco’s Autonomy Plan
On October 30, the Security Council votes on the MINURSO mandate, renewing it for one year.
MINURSO is the peacekeeping corps in Western Sahara. The resolution renewing its mandate reiterates the importance of Morocco’s Autonomy Plan as a credible and serious solution to end the conflict.
The resolution also lists Algeria five times, tacitly stressing the country’s responsibility in the Western Sahara conflict as a main party and not as an observer.
Days before the UNSC adopts the resolution, two African countries open consulates in Western Sahara, recognizing Morocco’s sovereignty over its southern provinces.
Zambia and Eswatini open consulates in Laayoune on October 27.
In response to the diplomatic breakthroughs in Western Sahara, Morocco’s foreign affairs minister Nasser Bourita says King Mohammed VI’s royal vision is behind the diplomatic gains in the dossier.
October 23 marks the opening of two consulates in Morocco’s Dakhla; those of Burkina Faso and Guinea Bissau.
August-September: Repeated support for Morocco’s territorial integrity
In mid-September, the UNHCR receives statements from over 25 countries that publicly voice their support for Morocco’s territorial integrity.
The two months witness various developments, including Polisario’s provocative moves, in which the UN intervenes.
Before Morocco’s peaceful operation in Guerguerat, the UN and Morocco have long called on the Polisario Front to stop its provocations that escalate tension.
Polisario, however, continues to breach international law with its maneuvers.
To its dismay, however, several international bodies express satisfaction with Morocco’s commitment, including in support of the development of Western Sahara.
In mid-August, the EU expresses satisfaction with the inclusion of the population of Morocco’s southern provinces in Western Sahara’s development process.
EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borell says that several agreements between the European body and Morocco testify to Rabat’s commitment to boost development projects in the southern provinces.
May-July: Fight for territorial integrity amid pandemic
The months of April, May, June, and July are intense for Morocco due to the emergence of the COVID-19 crisis and consequential lockdown. Amid its mobilization to fight the pandemic, Morocco’s government, however, on various occasions, repeatedly expresses its firm position regarding the conflict.
Morocco’s position reaffirms that the country will accept no solution outside Morocco’s Autonomy Plan.
March: Growing African support
The month of March is a busy period for Morocco’s diplomacy, which gains momentum after yet another African country joins a growing list of states to open consulates in the southern provinces.
On March 12, Liberia opens its consulate in Dakhla, reiterating support for Morocco’s territorial integrity and the autonomy initiative as the basis to end the conflict.
Earlier in March, Morocco’s Autonomy Plan also earns support from Turkmenistan, which says that the initiative should serve as the only solution to end the conflict.
Colombia reiterates the same position, supporting Morocco’s territorial integrity.
February: More support from Morocco’s home, Africa
On February 28, Djibouti reiterates its position favoring Morocco’s territorial integrity through the opening of a consulate general in Morocco’s Dakhla.
Burundi makes the same move on the same day, also reaffirming its support.
On February 18, Cote d’Ivoire officializes the opening of its consulate in Laayoune. The move unsurprisingly causes frustration with the Polisario Front, but angers Algeria the most.
Cote d’Ivoire, however, slams Algeria’s foreign ministry, arguing that its decisions are sovereign.
The Ivorian Minister for African Integration, Ally Coulibaly, says that the opening is in line with his country’s “interests and values.”
“In foreign policy, as in other fields, we are careful not to give moral lessons, nor do we want to be told what to do or not to do,” says the Ivorian official.
During the same month, several other countries express support for Morocco’s territorial integrity, including Chile.
January: A good start
The year 2020 is beneficial for Morocco’s cause from its start. After the opening of Comoros’ consulate in late 2019, the Gambia joins the list in early January.
The Gambia starts 2020’s consular openings on January 7, when it inaugurates its representation.
Gabon and Guinea open consulates in southern Morocco on January 17. Gabon opens its consulate in Laayoune, while Guinea inaugurates its representation in Dakhla.
Sao Tome and Principe’s decision to open its consulate in Laayoune follows, on January 23, two days before Bolivia announces it is withdrawing recognition of the self-styled SADR.
As 2020 comes to a close, Morocco’s government is determined to see Polisario’s claims experience more isolation in the years to come, vowing that more countries will open diplomatic representations in the country’s southern provinces to reaffirm support for Morocco’s position.
It remains to be seen what developments 2021 will bring for Morocco’s diplomacy.