Stockholm reaffirms neutrality on Western Sahara

Friday 30/10/2015
Moroccans demonstrate in front of the Swedish Embassy in Rabat, on October 4th.

Casablanca - Swedish politicians reaf­firmed their neutrality on the Morocco-Western Sa­hara issue and support for the negotiation process towards a mutually acceptable set­tlement to a decades-old conflict af­ter talks with an official delegation from Rabat.
Former foreign minister Saaded­dine el-Othmani led a Moroccan delegation of major political parties to Stockholm following a visit by a group led by United Social Party (PSU) Secretary-General Nabila Mounib in a bid to defuse the politi­cal crisis between the two countries over Stockholm’s reported plan to recognise the chimerical Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR).
The delegation met with politi­cal leaders, parliamentarians and stakeholders in Sweden during the two-day visit that began October 12th.
The talks sought to clarify Mo­rocco’s autonomy plan for Western Sahara. The Moroccan delegation indicated that an emphasis was placed on the need to continue the dialogue and promote bilateral po­litical and economic cooperation while respecting the territorial in­tegrity of the North African king­dom.
Morocco annexed Western Sa­hara, a former Spanish territory, in 1975. Polisario Front separatists, who had sought independence from Spain, 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 rejected the proposal and insisted on the right of the Sahrawi people to determine their own future.
UN-sponsored talks to resolve the dispute between Morocco and the Polisario have stalled.
Mounib, who led a delegation of leftist politicians, said the visit eased tense diplomatic ties between Morocco and Sweden.
“The meeting between the Mo­roccan delegation and the Swed­ish officials was an opportunity to make necessary clarifications on the human and historical complex­ity of the issue and its evolution,” Mounib wrote on Facebook after meeting with Swedish officials.
“The government of Sweden has no intention of recognising SADR and harming Morocco’s economic interests,” she noted, adding that Swedish officials affirmed that they would support UN efforts for a peaceful political solution to the dispute.
The diplomatic crisis erupted be­tween Morocco and Sweden after a draft law was submitted by the Swedish Social Democratic Party in parliament on the recognition of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic.
Stockholm’s bid to recognise the so-called SADR did not come as a surprise. In December 2012, leftist MPs pushed for a draft law calling on the government to recognise the SADR. However, it was rejected by the government. Since the setback, Polisario supporters have increased contacts with separatists and vis­ited Tindouf refugee camps in Al­geria.
The move prompted Rabat to con­sider a boycott of Swedish products and companies. On October 4th, more than 40,000 people gathered in front of the Swedish Embassy in Rabat to denounce Stockholm’s “biased” position in favour of the Polisario Front, calling for the boy­cott.
However, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, in an interview with Swedish newspaper Expressen, de­nied that recognition of the SADR was on the table.
Lofven’s statement supports For­eign Minister Margot Wallstrom’s claim that Sweden does not intend, for the time being, to recognise the SADR.
Moroccan Communication Minis­ter Mustapha el-Khalfi was reassur­ing about the issue during an Octo­ber 19th news conference.
“There is a dialogue today at gov­ernmental level to address this is­sue about which the Moroccan side has introduced a number of data and evidence which show that the national cause is sacred to all Mo­roccans who consented all sacrifices to defend it,” said Khalfi.
“The government will continue the dialogue and inform the public about any developments on the is­sue.”