Morocco backs UN talks on W Sahara

Friday, Jan 14, 2022

Rabat: Morocco on Thursday endorsed United Nations-led talks over the Western Sahara conflict, as the world body’s new envoy visited on his first official trip since taking office.

Staffan de Mistura, a former UN envoy to Syria, met the North African kingdom’s top diplomat Nasser Bourita in Rabat, the foreign ministry said. De Mistura is later expected to visit Morocco’s arch-rival Algeria, which backs the Polisario Front seeking independence in Western Sahara.

Moroccan officials reiterated the kingdom’s "commitment to the resumption of the political process conducted under the exclusive auspices of the UN to achieve a political solution" based on a Moroccan plan for autonomy, the official MAP agency reported.

Rabat sees the Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony with access to lucrative phosphate resources and rich Atlantic fisheries, as its sovereign territory. But the Polisario Front, which took up arms in the 1970s to seek independence there, demands an independence referendum on the basis of a 1991 deal that included a ceasefire.

The truce collapsed in 2020, after the Trump administration recognised Rabat’s sovereignty over the Western Sahara in exchange for Morocco re-establishing ties with Israel. Morocco has offered limited autonomy but rejected calls for independence.

King Mohamed VI reiterated that position in a November speech, calling for a "peaceful solution" to the conflict but vowed that "Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara will never be up for negotiation".