Russia continues to weigh the possibility of recognizing Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara as the two countries expand bilateral relations economically and politically.
On Wednesday, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Sergey Vershinin, and Morocco’s Ambassador to Russia, Lotfi Bouchaara, discussed the settlement of the Western Sahara issue in Moscow.
Russia has historically maintained a pro-Algerian stance on Western Sahara but the increase in conversation leaves many optimistic that Russia will support Morocco’s sovereignty over the region.
The Russian Foreign Ministry commented on the diplomatic exchange stating, “an in-depth exchange of views took place on issues on the agenda of the UN Security Council, with emphasis on resolving the Western Sahara issue.”
“A just and lasting solution is only possible through political means on the basis of the relevant Security Council resolutions,” the same source added.
All but one Security Council resolutions since 2011 have welcomed “serious and credible Moroccan efforts to move the process forward towards resolution.” However, UN Security Council resolutions have yet to make a definitive decision on Western Sahara.
The most recent UN Security Council resolution, 2548, urges “the parties and neighbouring states” to engage productively with its political process to find a “realistic, agreed upon, and mutually acceptable solution to end the conflict over Western Sahara.”
The Foreign Ministry highlighted “the importance of the appointment as soon as possible of a new personal envoy of the Secretary-General of the United Nations and of progress in the resumption of negotiations between the parties.”
The two countries have held numerous discussions on the issue and Russia remains open to developing stronger bilateral ties with Morocco.
Relations extend beyond politics, as Morocco is now the third-largest trading partner with Russia in Africa. Morocco exported an estimated $455 million (MAD 4 billion) to Russia in 2019 while Algeria exported just $8.42 million (MAD 75.2 million).
Primarily, Morocco exports fruits and vegetables to Russia and relies on Russia to import coal. In December 2020, Morocco passed a bill permitting Russia to operate within the Moroccan Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), allowing it to continue fishing operations including off Morocco’s Saharan coast.
Algeria exports tropical fruits to Russia and receives mostly explosives and weapons.
The diplomatic meeting is the fourth conversation on Western Sahara issues between Morocco and Russia in eight months.
Observers expect the conversation to continue as Morocco’s diplomatic momentum continues to grow, with developments such as consular openings in the region and US recognition of Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara.