Morocco’s former ambassador to the UN and to the UK, Khalil Haddaoui, has criticized former US diplomats John Bolton and James Baker for their “misleading” and Algeria-engineered narrative on the Western Sahara conflict.
In an analysis published by Foreign Policy News, Haddaoui deconstructed Bolton and Baker’s analyses of the situation in Western Sahara and proved their contradictions.
John Bolton, who served as the US ambassador to the UN (2005-2006) and the US national security advisor (2018-2019), criticized the American decision to recognize Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara in an article published by Foreign Policy.
Meanwhile, James Baker, who served as the US secretary of state (1989-1992) and the UN envoy to Western Sahara (1997-2004), qualified the American decision to support Morocco’s territorial integrity as a “rash move” in an opinion piece shared by The Washington Post.
Both Bolton and Baker are avid defenders of a self-determination referendum in Western Sahara, challenging Morocco’s sovereignty over the region.
In his analytical response, Khalil Haddaoui began by criticizing the former US politicians for ignoring the role of Algeria in the conflict, despite their knowledge of the Algerian regime’s active support for the separatist Polisario Front.
Haddaoui explained that one of the main reasons Algeria is fueling the territorial dispute and supporting separatism in the region is so it can gain access to the Atlantic Ocean through its proxy, self-styled Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR).
“To fully understand this issue, it must be considered within the geo-strategic context of the North-West African region, while taking into account the propensity of the Algerian power towards expansionism and its obsession to gain access to the Atlantic Ocean,” he wrote.
Algeria does not truly defend self-determination
The former Moroccan diplomat highlighted the contradictions between Algeria’s official claims and their actions, proving that their professed defense of the “Sahrawi people’s rights” actually serves the Algerian regime’s agenda.
Algeria officially claims that it supports the Polisario Front because it believes the population in Western Sahara needs to practice its right to self-determination.
However, Haddaoui recalled, former Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika once suggested dividing the region into two separate entities. During a meeting with James Baker in 2001, Boutflika went as far as describing the division of the Western Sahara territory as a “political solution.”
The suggestion, which was documented in a UN Secretary-General report on February 19, 2002, completely contradicts Algeria’s public claims of supporting self-determination in the region.
Haddaoui criticized John Bolton, who claims to care for the “Sahrawi people’s right to self-determination,” for not objecting to Bouteflika’s suggestion.
“Why didn’t Bolton, who claims himself of being a close collaborator of Baker, object to the Algerian proposal to divide the territory as a ‘political solution,’ since it is a flagrant violation of the principle of the right to self-determination?” he asked.
The former diplomat argued that this development proved Algeria’s hidden motives vis-a-vis the Western Sahara dispute.
Morocco highlighted the contradictions in Algeria’s claims in a letter sent to the UN Security Council on February 25, 2002.
“The Moroccan Government […] wishes to point out that [the Algerian proposal] is clearly contrary to all the fundamental principles of the Charter of the United Nations and, in particular, the self-determination which Algeria has claimed to support in order to justify its interest in this dispute,” wrote Mohammed Bennouna, Morocco’s ambassador to the UN at the time.
‘Sahrawi people’ is a misleading term
Haddaoui pointed out the fallacy in using the term “Sahrawi people” as indicative of the population in Western Sahara, explaining that the Sahara region does not end at the Moroccan borders.
“The Sahara is an immense geographical area, which is under several sovereignties. To only mention the region of North-West Africa, there is the Moroccan Sahara, as there is the Algerian Sahara and the Mauritanian Sahara,” the former diplomat wrote.
“There are no ethnical differences between the populations of these regions as Bolton wants us to believe in his article. Talking of a ‘Sahrawi people’ only for the populations in the Moroccan Sahara is a fiction,” he added.
Responding to Bolton’s accusations that Morocco is preventing a self-determination referendum, Haddaoui explained that the UN Security Council itself asked all the conflicting parties to explore other ways for achieving a solution to the dispute, in light of the difficulty to hold a referendum.
The Security Council “supports the intention of the Secretary-General […] to ask his Personal Envoy to consult the parties and, taking into account existing and potential obstacles, to explore ways and means to achieve an early, durable, and agreed solution of their dispute,” said Resolution 1292, published on February 29, 2002.
Algeria and Polisario opposed self-determination referendum
Contrary to Bolton’s claims, Algeria is the party that has historically challenged the holding of a self-determination referendum in Western Sahara, Haddaoui argued.
He recalled that King Hassan II proposed a referendum in the region at the 18th African Summit in Nairobi, Kenya, in June 1981.
Morocco was fully committed to allowing local populations in the region to participate in a self-determination referendum, as documented in Resolution AHG/RES.103 (XVIII) of the Organization of African Unity (OAU).
However, Algeria and the Polisario Front opposed the decision and attempted to force African states to recognize an “independent state” in southern Morocco without a referendum.
“The objective of Algeria was to get the OAU to admit within its membership the so-called [SADR], which it established in the refugee camps on its territory without the will of the population,” Haddaoui explained.
Algeria achieved its objective in collusion with the OAU Secretary-General at the time, Edem Kodjo, leading to an internal crisis within the continental organization and, ultimately, to Morocco suspending its membership.
For Haddaoui, these historical facts leave no room for doubt as to Algeria’s role in the genesis and prolongation of the Western Sahara quagmire.
Rather than the decolonization and self-determination it presents itself as, he argued, the Algerian regime is a destabilizing agent in the region that uses the separatist Polisario Front for geopolitical gains.
“If Bolton has not understood what lies behind the veil of self-determination, then he will never understand the essence of this conflict,” wrote the former Moroccan diplomat.
Algeria does not care about refugees in Tindouf camps
Haddaoui concluded his analysis by drawing attention to the situation of refugees in the Polisario-controlled camps of Tindouf, in southwestern Algeria.
“These refugees do not benefit from any rights as provided for by the 1951 Geneva Convention related to the Status of Refugees,” he pointed out.
The Tindouf camps are a group of basic habitations in southwestern Algeria where the Algerian government delegated power to the Polisario Front. NGOs regularly decry the dire living conditions in the camps.
Algerian authorities inflate the number of refugees living in the camp in order to maximize the amount of humanitarian aid sent by international organizations. Several NGOs have accused Algerian and Polisario leadership of diverting the aid destined for the refugees.
Despite repeated requests, Algeria still refuses to let the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) from conducting a census in Tindouf, Haddaoui denounced.
“Algeria […] prefers to spend millions of dollars on lobbyists, as well as on the dozens of Polisario representatives who comfortably live in the big capitals of the world,” he wrote.
After proving the contradictions and fallacies in Algeria’s claims, Haddaoui underlined that, for Morocco, the Western Sahara issue is a question of national unity and territorial integrity, away from any political agendas.
He concluded his text with a quote by King Mohammed VI: “The Sahara is an existential issue and not just a question of borders.”