When asked about Morocco and the UAE as part of the Abraham Accords, Blinken chose to dodge the question on Western Sahara
Rabat – The newly sworn-in US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken yesterday did not answer a direct question on the US’ position on Western Sahara. In a press briefing that was supposed to signal a new era of transparency in the White House, Blinken chose to dodge the question.
On his first day on the job, Secretary of State Blinken spoke to the press to elaborate on the new administration’s positions and priorities on foreign policy. Blinken spoke fairly candidly on Biden’s policies regarding Russia, Afghanistan and China, but stayed clear of providing a clear item when the topic of Western Sahara was broached.
Western Sahara question
Shaun Tandon of the AFP brought up the topic after Blinken spoke on Russia. Tandon mentioned that Blinken’s availability to the press was a “powerful signal” that “does go noticed” by the media.
Tandon asked Blinken about the Biden administration’s position on the Abraham Accords, notably the UAE’s F-35 sale and its position on Western Sahara.
“With Morocco, does the United States still recognize, and as the previous administration said, Moroccan sovereignty in Western Sahara?” Tandon asked.
Blinken chose his response carefully, electing to stay well clear of the Western Sahara question.”As we’ve said, we very much support the Abraham Accords,” Blinken started.
“We think that Israel normalizing relations with its neighbors and other countries in the region is a very positive development,” he offered, reiterating an already public position of Biden’s.
Even as he dodged the Western Sahara debate, Blinken suggested the new US administration will mostly uphold the Abraham Accords. “We applauded them, and we hope that there may be an opportunity to build on them in the months and years ahead,” he said, as he went on to focus exclusively on arms sales to the UAE.
The new secretary of state kept the answer tightly focused on the UAE, where Biden has already spoken out about ending support for the war in Yemen. Arms sales to the UAE would be reviewed “to make sure that what is being considered is something that advances our strategic objectives and advances our foreign policy,” Blinken concluded.
As the press briefing’s moderator shifted to another reporter, the AFP’s Tandon managed to ask “and Morocco?” But Blinken and the press officer clearly intended to move on.
Blinken’s obfuscation on the Western Sahara appears to be a conscious choice. The Biden administration has significant domestic challenges on its plate and appears to be wary of taking action on this particular foreign policy matter.
Biden appears reluctant to alienate a key regional US ally in Morocco, or oppose widespread Israeli support for the recent agreements. The news US administration is also well aware that reversing the Trump-brokered breakthroughs on the Sahara question would decisively endanger the strong ties between Morocco’s armed forces and the US military.
When it comes to dodging questions, a politician’s silence sometimes can speak volumes.