This week on Hold Your Fire!, Rob Malley and guest host Richard Atwood talk with Dahlia Scheindlin and Crisis Group’s North Africa Project Director Riccardo Fabiani about the normalisation of relations between Israel and Morocco and the accompanying U.S. recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara.
Morocco scored major diplomatic victory in battle over disputed Western Sahara while low-level violence continued. U.S. President Trump 10 Dec announced U.S. recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara as part of deal under which Morocco agreed to resume diplomatic relations with Israel (see Morocco). Polisario Front independence movement same day condemned U.S. stance on Western Sahara as “blatant violation” of international law, said Trump “attributes to Morocco something which does not belong [to it]”. Algerian govt 12 Dec rejected U.S. recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara, said it undermined efforts to end decades-long conflict (see Algeria). U.S. Sec State Pompeo 24 Dec launched process to open consulate in Western Saharan city of Dakhla. Meanwhile, Polisario throughout month continued to shell Moroccan defensive positions along East-West sand berm that separates Moroccan-controlled Western Saharan territory from Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic-controlled territory; no significant damages reported.
The Western Sahara conflict is both one of the world’s oldest and one of its most neglected.
The combination of Morocco’s recent proposal of a “Sahara autonomous region”, the Polisario Front’s counter-proposal of independence with guarantees for Moroccan interests and the UN Security Council’s 30 April resolution calling for direct negotiations between the parties – due to begin on 18 June – has been hailed as a promising breakthrough in the protracted Western Sahara dispute.
[The US recognition of Rabat’s claim to Western Sahara] will make Sahrawi youths more angry, mobilised and committed to resolving the conflict through force.
Refugee camps in Tindouf, Algeria, have long been run by the Polisario movement, which seeks an independent state in Western Sahara, also claimed by Morocco. But a new generation of Sahrawi refugees is growing fractious as aid dwindles and diplomatic efforts fail to deliver a settlement.
Originally published in Al Hayat
Originally published in The Wall Street Journal Europe