Moroccan king stands firm on autonomy plan for Western Sahara
TUNIS - King Mohammed VI of Morocco reiterated that he would not make any concessions other than the autonomy plan for the disputed Western Sahara.
“Those who are waiting for any other concession on Morocco’s part are deceiving themselves. Indeed, Morocco has given all there was to give,” the king said in a televised speech from Laayoune, the capital of Western Sahara on November 6th.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon two days earlier called for negotiations to settle the dispute.
In 1975, then King Hassan II called on Moroccans to go on a “Green March” to free Spanish Sahara. About 350,000 men and women from across the North African country responded and marched unarmed on November 6th of that year into the region of Sakia el-Hamra.
Spain was forced to agree to cede possession of the colony to Morocco and Mauritania.
Algerian-backed Polisario Front separatists, who have campaigned for independence for the territory since 1973, fought the Moroccan Army until the United Nations brokered a ceasefire in 1991.
Rabat has proposed wide autonomy for Western Sahara but the Polisario Front has rejected the proposal and insisted on the right of the Sahrawi people to determine their own future.
“This initiative is the maximum Morocco can offer,” King Mohammed VI said in a speech to mark the 40th anniversary of the Green March. “Morocco refuses any adventure with an uncertain result and that could be potentially dangerous.”
The monarch led a signing ceremony of five agreements concerning the implementation of a development model for the southern provinces to improve the region’s infrastructure, including a desalination plant in Dakhla and industrial zones in Laayoune, El Marsa and Boujdour.
He vowed that revenues from natural resources “will continue to be invested in the region for the benefit of the local populations and in consultation and coordination with them”.
The king lashed out at countries calling for the boycott of Moroccan products because of the dispute with the Polisario Front.
The government in October said it was reconsidering allowing Swedish companies to operate in Morocco because of Stockholm’s plan to recognise the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), which claims sovereignty over Western Sahara. However, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven denied that recognition of the SADR was on the table
“Morocco will also confront hostile campaigns against Moroccan products, building on the same spirit of sacrifice and commitment demonstrated in the political and security sectors to defend its unity and immutable values,” said the king. “As for those who want to boycott our products, in blatant violation of international law, let them do so. However, they will have to assume the responsibilities for their decisions.”
Polisario’s planned SADR was recognised by some countries from the African Union but no Western powers recognised it.
The king criticised neighbouring Algeria for failing to improve living conditions for Sahrawi refugees in the Tindouf camp while spending billions on military and diplomatic moves against Morocco.
“For 40 years Algeria could not — or did not want to — build 6,000 housing units to safeguard their dignity. That amounts to an average of 150 housing units a year” he said in a reference to the 40,000 Sahrawi refugees who live in the camp.
“The people in Tindouf, in Algeria, continue to suffer from poverty, despair, deprivation and the systematic violation of their basic rights,” King Mohammed VI said.