Senegal opens consulate in Dakhla, signs agreements with Morocco
DAKHLA, Morocco – Senegal opened on Monday a consulate in Dakhla, in the Western Sahara, joining other African and Arab countries in supporting Morocco’s claim to the disputed territory, Moroccan media reported.
The consulate was opened by the Moroccan and Senegalese foreign ministers in the Atlantic city of Dakhla, making Senegal the 22nd nation to establish a diplomatic mission in the territory.
At a news conference on this occasion, Morocco’s Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita called on Algeria to uphold its role as the main party in the Western Sahara conflict and engage in direct negotiations with Morocco.
“The two real parties (to the Sahara issue) are Morocco and Algeria,” said Bourita, citing the actions of the Algerian diplomacy which has made the defense of the Polisario Front its prime foreign policy goal.
“Algeria’s diplomatic actions, mobilisation and positions affirm that it is the real party,” Bourita said during the news conference attended by Senegalese Foreign Minister Aissata Tall Sall.
After the inauguration of Senegal’s consulate in Dakhla, Bourita signed several cooperation agreements with his Senegalese counterpart.
These allow for the booting of cooperation between the two countries, the effective implementation of partnership agreements and the exchange of experiences and expertise in local governance and local management of decentralised entities.
One of the agreements specifically touches on Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector, allowing both countries to develop, strengthen and deepen mutually beneficial cooperation in this field, through the exchange of information, skills and expertise.
Part of the agreement is the development of digital educational content which will promote digital universities and distance learning, the transfer of technologies and best practice in e-government.
Another agreement relates to technical cooperation in civil aviation. Under the MoU, both countries are committed to providing technical assistance for the safety and security of civil aviation, as well as the development of air transportation.
The cooperation, according to Moroccan media, will come about through the exchange of expertise and information in civil aviation and transportation, field visits and specific training.
Senegal’s move in support of Morocco’s sovereignty over the Western Sahara sends a strong message in favour of Morocco’s right to the disputed territory.
To date, Dakhla is a host to consulates from Gambia, Guinea, Djibouti, Liberia, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Haiti, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), as well as the United States.
In Laayoune, the largest city in the southern province, there are diplomatic missions from Jordan, Comoros, Gabon, Sao Tome and Principe, the Central African Republic, Ivory Coast, Burundi, Eswatini, Zambia, the UAE, and Bahrain.
Last month, Suriname announced its intention to open a consulate general in Dakhla, as well as inaugurating an embassy in Rabat, with a view to boosting bilateral cooperation and promoting investment and trade.
Western Sahara is a disputed and divided former Spanish colony, mostly under Morocco’s control, where tensions with the Algeria-backed Polisario Front have simmered since the 1970s.
In January, the US started the “process of establishing” a consulate in the Western Sahara, after Washington recognised Morocco’s sovereignty over the disputed territory.
The shift in US foreign policy, experts say, could create new opportunities for trade and tourism that will likely provide a welcome boost for the region and sun-kissed coastal cities like Dakhla.
Western Sahara’s economy is run by Morocco, which has built most of the territory’s infrastructure and encouraged Moroccans to settle there.