Stockholm reaffirms neutrality on Western Sahara
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.”