Global Policy Forum

Morocco: Country to Present

April 10, 2007

Morocco will present its plan to grant substantial autonomy to Saharawi, also known as Western Sahara, to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Tuesday. As part of this initiative, Moroccan Prime Minister Driss Jettou will hold a series of meetings until Wednesday with political parties and local media to explain the broad lines of this proposal. Morocco hopes the plan will put an end to the three decade-old dispute with the Algerian-backed Polisario Front (Popular Front for the Liberation of the Saguia el Hamra and Rio de Oro).

Polisario is claiming independence for the former Spanish colony that was ceded to Morocco in 1975 under the Madrid Accords. Morocco virtually annexed the northern two-thirds of Western Sahara (formerly Spanish Sahara) in 1976, and the rest of the territory in 1979, following Mauritania's withdrawal. A guerrilla war with the Polisario Front contesting Rabat's sovereignty ended in a 1991 UN-brokered cease-fire. A UN-organised referendum on the area's final status has been repeatedly postponed.

Morocco has in the past few weeks dispatched several delegations of senior officials to Europe, Africa, America, Asia and Arab countries as part of a worldwide diplomatic campaign to drum up support for its proposal. Several countries such as France, Spain, the United States, Italy, Mexico, the Comoros and Portugal have commended the Moroccan initiative and expressed their support for Morocco's efforts to find a final solution to the conflict within the framework of the United Nations. South Africa is one of the numerous nations worldwide which recognises the sovereignty of Saharawi, having welcomed the establishment of an embassy in Pretoria by the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) in 2006.

In April 2005, South Africa's Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma concluded the first high-level visit by a South African Minister to the SADR since official recognition by the South African government on 15 September 2004. During the visit, Minister Dlamini Zuma held political and economic bilateral discussions with her counterpart, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Co-operation, Ould Salek, Prime Minister Taleb Omar and other high-ranking officials of SADR. During bilateral discussions both Ministers agreed to explore areas of co-operation with a specific focus on the building of capacity of Saharawi refugees. Both ministers signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the provision of humanitarian aid to the Saharawi refugee camps in Algeria. In this regard South African humanitarian assistance to the Saharawi's will focus on basic nutrition, health and water, and sanitation solutions. Minister Dlamini Zuma also reaffirmed South Africa's support for the principle of self-determination as a cardinal and inviolable right and principle enshrined in the United Nations (UN) Charter. Within this context she reiterated South Africa's support for the right of the Saharawi's to determine their future within the context of existing UN resolutions.

The UNSC is due to debate the Sahara issue on 20 April, while the UN Secretary General's report on the Sahara will be submitted to UNSC members on 16 April. Meanwhile, Moroccan Government Spokesman Nabil Brnabdellah says Spain's reaction to the autonomy proposal is positive and encouraging and Madrid's position will "contribute to bring forward the process of the conflict settlement". Mr Benabdellah told the Spanish news agency Europass Monday that Morocco "calls for dialog on the basis of this initiative through which we are ready to discuss with all the parties involved". The ruling Spanish Socialist Labour Party (PSOE), said on Sunday that Morocco's proposal could constitute a solution to the Sahara dispute and urged the Polisario to "make an effort" to find a solution to this political conflict.

More Information on the Security Council
More Information on the Western Sahara


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