Sahara: the new Spanish position challenges France’s equal distance

Spain’s position on the Sahara conflict gives new impetus to the growing belief that the Moroccan plan is the best path to a lasting solution.

Whatever one may say or think, one can only acknowledge that the Spanish decision to support the Moroccan autonomy plan for the Sahara constitutes the most crucial of all recent diplomatic and political developments on the issue of the Sahara. Apart from its unprecedented historical significance – this is the first time that a European country has supported the Moroccan Autonomy Initiative with such clarity and sincerity – this decision will have important geostrategic implications for the future of the conflict.

The fact that Spain was the occupying power in the Moroccan Sahara until 1975; that she signed an agreement with Morocco in which she agreed to return the Sahara to her motherland; and the fact that it never vetoed this agreement makes Madrid’s new position particularly important and further strengthens Morocco’s position on the conflict.

For Algeria, on the other hand, the Spanish decision is a catastrophic development for two closely linked reasons. First, Madrid’s support for Rabat is a painful reminder of the failure of Algerian diplomats’ tireless efforts to sabotage or at least stem the undeniable pro-Moroccan momentum of the diplomatic battle over the Sahara over the past decade. .

Secondly, Algeria has not only lost in Spain a former accomplice, which it used to associate with to undermine Moroccan interests, but the domino effect that the Spanish decision will certainly trigger is what is, in fact, a fatal blow to Algeria’s dreams of regional hegemony. .

What about France

If the Algerian regime could not foresee the catastrophic consequences of its unfortunate decision to terminate the gas pipeline contract between Europe and the Maghreb, Algerian diplomats should at least be wise enough to know that Madrid’s position in favor of Rabat is warning of other similar events, there comes. .

It is therefore to be expected that, over time, the Spanish decision will lead many other countries, especially in Europe and Latin America, to consider following the example of Spain. In particular, this decision will certainly put unprecedented diplomatic pressure on France, where the other country has one historical responsibility in the genesis of the Sahara conflict.

Although France has supported the Moroccan proposal for fifteen years, Paris’ support for the Moroccan position has never been as clear or explicit as the recently announced Spanish position. On the contrary, France has long contented itself with repeating the pro-Moroccan language used by the UN Security Council since 2007.

Far from supporting the Moroccan autonomy plan as the most realistic, credible and serious solution to the Sahara conflict, France, in its apparent desire to satisfy Morocco adequately without completely alienating Algeria, is merely content to recall its adherence to the UN position. that the autonomy plan constitutes “a realistic and credible proposal.”

The meaning of language is well known – in life in general and in politics in particular. Especially in diplomatic jargon, every word has an enormous weight, and the choice of definite or indefinite articles is filled with meaning, political significance. To say that the Moroccan autonomy plan is a “realistic and credible” proposal is not at all the same as saying that it is ” that most credible, realistic and serious plan “.

In the first case, the speaker leaves the door open for another plan or proposal that could also be “realistic and credible”. While in the second use, which is also the case with the Spanish Prime Minister in his letter to King Mohammed VI on 18 March, there is no room for a different interpretation.

For the other speaker, the acclaimed shot is thus the only possible outcome; it’s this plan or nothing. So what to conclude? This: While Spain used to think like France – endorsing the Moroccan plan and at the same time leaving the door to credibility and realism open to the self-determination vote defended by Algeria and the Polisario separatists – Madrid now believes that the Moroccan plan is single track viable for a lasting solution to the Sahara conflict.

This change in Spain’s position – which should be seen as a logical development of the line that Madrid has defended over the last two decades, given that Spain has moderately supported the Moroccan autonomy plan since 2008 – should confront the countries of the European Union with a terrible truth, frightening to many. It is a matter of admitting that Morocco’s proposal is basically the best and only path to peace, prosperity and stability in the Sahara.

The moment of truth for the EU

Therefore, if the EU is really serious about its sincere desire to contribute to the resolution of the Sahara conflict, and if it really wants to strengthen its relations with Morocco on the basis of mutual respect, it should consider expressing its support clearly and unequivocally to: the Moroccan Autonomy Plan.

Such a strong statement of support would be the first step in the right direction to promote the essential cooperation between Brussels and Rabat. More than that, however, it would also constitute a decisive affirmation of the line of realism and compromise that the UN Security Council has clearly taken in all its resolutions related to the Sahara conflict since 2007.

Especially since 2018, the UN consensus on the Sahara issue has been the rejection of a useless and impractical referendum on self-determination in favor of a realistic, practical and compromise-based political solution.

So will EU countries follow in Spain’s footsteps and recognize the importance of the Sahara for Morocco and the Moroccans? And are they ready to stop hiding behind vague and ambiguous statements in order to truly and energetically acknowledge the unanimity that the Moroccan autonomy plan has achieved over the past decade?

After seeing the press release issued by the EU last week, in which it expressed its satisfaction with the normalization of relations between Morocco and Spain, I believe that the European bloc is not yet ready to abandon its position on “positive neutrality”. to the question of the Sahara to finally explicitly recognize the unsurpassed centrality of the Moroccan autonomy plan.

Nevertheless, if Algeria’s feverish and virulent reaction to Spain’s change of attitude has taught us anything, it is that Algiers now fears that the coming months and years will see the Moroccan plan gain even more popularity among diplomats in general and UN negotiators in particular.

In this sense, Spain’s decision made very clear what the American recognition of December 10 symbolically, but significantly, indicated: for any informed observer who is truly moved by the desire to maintain security, stability and peace in an already fragile Sahel Sahara region, Moroccan plane is the only possible resort for Sahara.

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