Iranian TV provokes row with Morocco over Sahara
Casablanca - A documentary on Sahrawi separatists in Western Sahara aired by Iran’s satellite channel Press TV has raised tensions between the Islamic Republic and Morocco.
We Are Rebels: Western Sahara, which aired in August, questioned Morocco’s territorial sovereignty over the area.
Morocco annexed the former Spanish territory in 1975 and Polisario guerrillas took up arms to fight for an independent state until the United Nations brokered a ceasefire in 1991. Several rounds of talks between Morocco and Polisario to decide the fate of the vast desert territory since then have foundered in deadlock.
“Western Sahara, bordering Morocco, Algeria, Mauritania and the Atlantic Ocean, is the last remaining colony in Africa still waiting for its independence,” the Press TV documentary said.
“Press TV has a clear position in favour of the Polisario Front and it is clearly shown in any of its programmes about the separatists,” said Ali Bahaijoub, a Moroccan expert on the Western Sahara issue and author of Western Saharan Conflict: Historical, Regional and International Dimensions. “They introduce Western Sahara as a sovereign state, which is contradictory with the UN’s efforts to find a political settlement.”
The documentary’s trailer, posted on YouTube, mentions a 40- year siege and a time bomb about to explode in the middle of the desert, in reference to the separatists and land occupation. “Since when was Western Sahara ever a sovereign state?” asked Bahaijoub.
The Iranian embassy in Rabat downplayed the documentary, issuing a statement reiterating its position of establishing friendly ties with Morocco based on the mutual respect of unity, territorial sovereignty and non-interference in each other’s domestic affairs.
The embassy stressed that “the inaccurate questions provided in the said report reflect neither Iran’s viewpoints not its clear positions”.
Morocco Deputy Foreign Minister Mbarka Bouaida summoned Iran’s charge d’affaires in July to strongly protest the publication by Iran’s Fars news agency, which has close ties to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, of an article accusing Morocco of being an agent of Israeli policy in the Muslim world.
Morocco and Iran named new ambassadors to Tehran and Rabat in 2014 after five years of severed diplomatic ties after Morocco accused the Islamic Republic of interfering in its affairs.