King Mohammed VI rejects any option for Western Sahara outside Moroccan sovereignty

Sunday 12/11/2017
Moroccan soldiers guard the wall separating the Polisario-controlled part of the Western Sahara from Morocco, last February. (AFP)

Casablanca- Moroccan King Mo­hammed VI has re­jected any peace deal that allows for the in­dependence of West­ern Sahara without Morocco having sovereignty.
“No settlement of the Sahara af­fair is possible outside the frame­work of the full sovereignty of Morocco over its Sahara and the autonomy initiative, whose seri­ousness and credibility the interna­tional community has recognised,” King Mohammed VI said in a tel­evised speech November 6 to com­memorate the 42nd anniversary of the Green March.
Jordan Paul, executive director of the Moroccan American Centre for Policy, said the autonomy initiative provides the basis for the only vi­able solution.
“As former Special Envoy Peter van Walsum said in his report… an independent Western Sahara was not a realistic proposition. The only way to resolve this conflict is through realistic, pragmatic and compromise-based solutions like the Moroccan autonomy initiative,” said Paul.
Rabat proposed autonomy un­der Moroccan sovereignty for the 266,000 territory. The pro­posal was rejected by the Polisario Front, an Algeria-based separatist movement that insists on the right of the Sahrawi people to determine their own future in a UN-monitored referendum.
Algeria and Morocco have been at loggerheads for decades over Western Sahara. Algeria denies in­volvement in the issue, although its leaders are suspected of playing a role in it.
The United States and France expressed support for Morocco’s “credible” autonomy plan for the territory.
“I think under the [UN Security Council] presidency of the United States in April… there were the first signs of significant Security Council commitment in a number of years on a number of different fronts,” Paul said.
“First, a vigorous commitment to not just kick the can down the road but a real emphasis on results within this year. A strong commit­ment in the text to a fifth round of negotiations, which would be based only on a discussion of some form of autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty, and stronger language on conducting a census of the ac­tual number of people living in the Polisario-run refugee camps near Tindouf, Algeria,” he added.
The Polisario Front criticised King Mohammed VI’s speech.
“The king’s speech renounces Morocco’s commitments,” Polisario official Mohamed Salem Ould Salek was quoted as saying by the Alge­rian news agency APS.
King Mohammed VI linked his late grandfather’s speech almost 60 years ago with the “Moroccanness” of the Western Sahara, sending a strong message to neighbouring Algeria about the kingdom’s territo­rial integrity.
“Today, we are proudly celebrat­ing the 42nd anniversary of the Green March and, in a few weeks, we will be commemorating the 60th anniversary of the speech de­livered at M’hamid al-Ghizlane by His Majesty King Mohammed V — may he rest in peace,” said the king.
“The historic speech at M’hamid al-Ghizlane is highly significant for several reasons. Not only does it represent a milestone in the com­pletion of our territorial integrity but it also confirmed a basic fact which no one can deny, namely the Moroccanness of the Sahara and the Moroccan people’s unwavering commitment to their land imme­diately after Morocco’s independ­ence.”
King Mohammed VI stressed that Morocco’s claim of the disputed territory happened before it was tabled at the United Nations in 1963 at a time when no other claims had been put forward regarding its lib­eration and before Algeria had its independence.
“It is a systematic linking of Mo­hammed V’s claim to independence and the reclaim of Sahara lands be­fore the independence of Algeria, which is challenging Morocco’s le­gitimacy and territorial integrity 18 years before the birth of the separa­tist front,” analyst Ahmed Noured­dine told news website Hespress.
Mustapha Sehimi, a professor of law and political science at the Faculty of Law in Rabat, said the national question of the Sahara was again solicited during King Moham­med VI’s speech.
“It is a proclamation that has all its meaning, one year after the kingdom’s independence, a strong act when the Sahara issue was not on any UN agenda, that no extra- Moroccan claim had been put for­ward and that Algeria was still un­der colonisation,” said Sehimi.
Diplomatic ties between Morocco and Algeria hit a low after Algerian Foreign Minister Abdelkader Mes­sahel last month accused the king­dom’s banks of “laundering hashish money” in Africa. Rabat slammed Messahel’s comments, saying that they displayed a “level of irrespon­sibility unprecedented in the his­tory of bilateral relations.”
The spat between the two neigh­bouring countries is hampering the Arab Maghreb Union’s economic progress. In February, King Mo­hammed VI warned that the union would crumble if its incapacity to live up to the ambitions of the 1989 agreement continued.
“The region and all the countries in it, including Algeria, would bene­fit economically from resolving this conflict,” Paul said. “It would allow the region to move past this artifi­cial dispute and allow the countries of the Maghreb to reinvigorate their economic union, open the Algerian borders and allow for more trade and more prosperity across North Africa.”