Rabat is putting pressure on to approve its autonomy plan

It is the Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez who himself will come to Morocco to ratify this “news scene “ that on March 18, 2022, Madrid evoked the Moroccan stance on Western Sahara, the former Spanish colony whose fate has been against Algiers and Rabat since 1975. Pedro Sanchez is expected “in the very next few days” in Rabat, at the invitation of King Mohammed VI, according to a press release from the Royal Cabinet. A visit by the head of Spanish diplomacy José Manuel Albares, originally scheduled for April 1, 2022, has been moved to the same date as the Prime Minister’s.

The Spanish turn, after a year of alienation, was hailed as one “diplomatic coup” of Moroccans. Spain radically changed its position by supporting the Moroccan sovereignty plan proposed in 2007 by Rabat, which is now considering the Moroccan initiative “as the most serious, realistic and credible basis” to resolve the dispute.

This resounding announcement came after a diplomatic crisis, triggered in April 2021 by the reception in Spain, for the treatment of Covid-19, by the leader of the Polisario Front, Brahim Ghali, Rabat’s sworn enemy. Its climax was, a month later, the arrival of about 10,000 migrants of Moroccan origin in a matter of hours in the Spanish enclave of Ceuta, on the northern coast of Morocco, thanks to a facilitation of border surveillance on the Moroccan side.

For the Spanish Prime Minister, the trip to Madrid was necessary to establish a relationship “more solid” with Morocco, a major trading partner and ally “strategic” in the fight against illegal immigration.

Western Sahara stretches over 266,000 km² located on the Atlantic coast and borders Morocco, Mauritania and Algeria. Almost desert, it is rich in phosphates and its coastline, 1,100 km long, is full of fish. Cut from north to south since the 1980s by one “defense wall”as the Moroccan authorities who built it call it, it has more than half a million inhabitants.

The former colony is considered one “non-autonomous territory” by the UN in the absence of a final solution. It is the only territory on the African continent whose postcolonial status remains unresolved. Morocco controls 80% and offers autonomy under its sovereignty, while the separatists from the Polisario front, supported by Algeria, demand a referendum on self-determination.

Today, Algiers appears isolated, analysts report, and the UN is fighting to restart a political dialogue that has been suspended since 2019. Since the recognition of “Moroccanism” of Western Sahara by Washington in December 2020, in return for the resumption of its relations with Israel, Rabat urges the international community to follow the American example.

After receiving his US counterpart Antony Blinken, who reiterated US support in this matter, the leader of the Moroccan diplomacy, Nasser Bourita, on March 29, 2022, invited Europe to “get out of your comfort zone” and like Spain to join the self-government plan. This appeal is associated with a warning “to those who hold vague or ambivalent views”. In a speech to the nation in November, Mohammed VI warned “Morocco would not take any economic or commercial approach with those who would exclude the Moroccan Sahara”.

Morocco is determined to settle the endless conflict in Western Sahara in favor of the Sahrawi separatists backed by Algeria, even at the expense of a quarrel with its allies, analysts say. For the sheriff’s empire, Western Sahara – as it calls its “southern provinces” Has historically been part of its territory, a “immutable truth” WHO “will never be on the agenda for any debate”according to King Mohammed VI.

“The Moroccan offensive is taking place at a time when all eyes are on Ukraine”, observes political scientist Khadija Mohsen-Finan. “It is also done at the end of a long process that consists for Morocco of making itself indispensable to Westerners: migration, overflight of territory, security and the fight against Islamism.”, she adds. In the eyes of Maghreb historian Pierre Vermeren, “Moroccans have learned the lesson of current geopolitics perfectly. The balance of power has become the norm to the detriment of international law.”.

A proof of its desire to free itself from all surveillance in the name of its interests, Morocco did not participate in the two votes at the UN General Assembly condemning Moscow for the invasion of Ukraine, in order to avoid alienating Russia, a member of the UN Security advice according to analysts. Morocco’s position has “very disappointed” its partners, according to a Western diplomatic source, “in view of the seriousness of Russian aggression and in respect of its traditional alliances with Western countries, it preferred a rapprochement with Russia which is nevertheless favorable to the Polisario Front”.

In response, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky decided to recall his ambassador to Morocco, Oksana Vassilieva, considering that she “wasting his time” Flap.

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