The US proclamation “reinforced momentum in favor of a realistic and lasting political solution” in Western Sahara.
Agadir – The US decision to recognize Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara offers a solution “to this dispute which has lasted too long” and brings us a step closer to “lasting stability and security” in the Sahel region, said Minister of Foreign Affairs Nasser Bourita in a February 3 column by magazine Jeune Afrique.
“The weight of this decision should be read in the light of that of its author: global power, permanent member of the Security Council,” wrote Bourita.
On December 10 the White House released a presidential proclamation, affirming the full sovereignty of Morocco over Western Sahara. This came as part of the Abrahamic Accords, a series of deals that sought to “normalize” ties between various MENA countries and Israel. Trump’s move also included announcing the US’ explicit support for Morocco’s Autonomy Plan as the basis for a solution to the Western Sahara conflict.
While many were surprised by the sudden development that came under the Trump administration, Bourita maintained that it only confirmed what the international community had already adopted as the only practical and politically feasible solution.
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“In this conflict, there are two opposing visions,” argued Bourita. He referred to Morocco, “who wants the future to be better than the past,” on one hand, and “other parties, who favor the status quo, even decay,” on the other hand.
The difference is that one “invests massively” with sums totaling over $7 billion (MAD 63 billion) in the last 10 years, while the other is “preventing regional economic integration” and threatening the security and stability of the already unstable Western Sahara region.
In a speech that King Mohammed VI delivered in 2014, he stressed that “for every single dirham of revenue from the Sahara [the government receives], the state invests 7 dirhams there.” As a result, today, human development indicators point to a higher standard of living in the southern provinces than the national average.
It is within this framework that observers must address the US decision. The foreign minister echoed the sentiment that many observers have already expressed, namely, that the US proclamation “reinforced momentum in favor of a realistic and lasting political solution based on compromise within the framework of autonomy.”
Bourita reiterated that the US support for the Moroccan Autonomy Plan is nothing new. In fact, it has been consistent across every US administration for the last two decades.
The autonomy plan was set in motion with the aid of the Clinton administration, “submitted in consultation with the Bush administration, Republican,” and thereafter saw the support of “the Obama administration, Democrat.”
“These successive administrations have all supported autonomy as a solution to this regional dispute” and as such the latest US proclamation “crowned this process and made clear a constant position of support for 20 years,” said the minister.
Beyond the purely diplomatic recognition of the southern provinces, the US has also made available to Morocco “a financial line for the benefit of the provinces of the Moroccan Sahara.” In a similar fashion, Moroccan trade agreements with the European Union include Western Sahara.
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All of this remains consistent with what has largely become an internationally accepted solution. Bourita pointed out that “many former UN envoys [have already] insisted that ‘an independent Sahara’ was not a realistic option.”
Furthermore, all United Nations Security Council resolutions on Western Sahara since 2007 have called for “realistic, pragmatic and lasting political solution,” while pointing out Morocco’s serious and credible efforts towards stability in the region.
The Moroccan Autonomy Plan suggests that Western Sahara become a semi-autonomous region that remains under Morocco’s sovereignty.
The initiative also would allow for the region’s inhabitants to manage their social, economic, and political affairs in an independent manner, while Morocco handles defense and diplomacy.
“Those who believe that they are upsetting Morocco by opposing its autonomy initiative are only serving a dead end and are in reality opposing the sole promise of a solution without winner or loser,” concluded the minister.