In a historic moment for Morocco and the long-running Moroccan Sahara issue, the US has just announced that it is definitively recognizing Morocco’s sovereignty over the entire Moroccan Sahara region.
The dispute over the region is a leftover colonial baggage from the days when the Moroccan Sahara was a Spanish enclave.
The latter was a huge injustice wrought on Morocco by 19th century European colonial powers who played God with African territories. The Spanish enclave lasted till 1975 when the historic Green March saw ordinary Moroccans peacefully reunite this part of the Sahara with the motherland.
However, a Sahrawi separatist group called the Polisario Front backed by Algeria carried out an armed movement against Morocco for 16 years until a UN-brokered ceasefire in 1991.
Meanwhile, Morocco’s claims over the Sahara are backed by history, legality and customary laws. And since 2007, Morocco’s Autonomy Plan – which envisages a high degree of autonomy for the Sahara provinces within Moroccan sovereignty – has gained increasing traction within the international community as the only credible, practical solution to the Moroccan Sahara issue.
It is this Autonomy Plan that has now been officially and definitively recognized by the US as the only template for the long-vexed Sahara question.
In a moment that can only be described as a huge victory for Morocco and a just reward for its clear, consistent position on the Sahara over all these years, US President Donald Trump, after a call with Morocco’s King Mohammed VI, issued a presidential proclamation that affirmed “The United States believes that an independent Sahrawi State is not a realistic option for resolving the conflict and that genuine autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty is the only feasible solution”.
Subsequently, the US has decided to open a consulate in the Moroccan Saharan city of Dakhla, a move that is bound to see many more countries follow in Washington’s footsteps.
And this I believe marks the beginning of the end of the Moroccan Sahara issue. After all, the US is the penholder of the UN Security Council resolutions on the Moroccan Sahara. And with Washington now taking such a clear position, the matter is almost resolved.
Now, much will be written about the connection between the US’s recognition of Morocco’s sovereignty over the Sahara and Morocco’s decision to establish relations with Israel but this is only half the story.
The US decision has not been made in exchange for the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between Morocco and Israel, which is part of the peaceful coexistence between Moroccan Jews and Moroccan Muslims.
It does not affect in any way Morocco’s defence of the Palestinian cause, as His Majesty King Mohammed VI asserted during His phone call with the President of the United States.
In fact, Morocco’s millenary tradition of peaceful coexistence and tolerance, under the Commandery of the Faithful, found its most powerful embodiment in the refusal of His Majesty the late King Mohammed V to hand Moroccans Jews over to the Vichy authorities. In recognition of this historic action, His Majesty the late King Mohammed V has been named a Righteous among the Nations by the Yad Vashem Memorial.
Under the High Orientations of His Majesty King Mohammed VI, Morocco has been promoting its Jewish heritage. In this respect, the Constitution of 2011 recognizes the contribution of the Jewish component to Morocco’s unity.
Upon Royal Instructions, Morocco has also engaged in a program of renovation of its synagogues and its Jewish cemeteries. The commitment to His Majesty King Mohammed VI in favour of the promotion of the Kingdom’s Jewish heritage also materialized by the creation of the Jewish Culture Museum of Fez, in May 2019.
Furthermore, Morocco’s Jewish diaspora is the most important one in the Arab World. More than one million Moroccan Jews currently live in Israel, and have kept close ties to their country of origin. Morocco receives 50.000 Moroccan Jews from Israel every year.
The re-establishment of diplomatic relations between Morocco and Israel is therefore only a natural step in the millenary history that united Moroccan Muslims and Moroccan Jews.
The reality of the matter is that Morocco expended huge strategic diplomatic capital in the last few years to ensure today’s result on the Sahara.
Morocco has indeed gained ability to counter its enemies machinations in the African organization after rejoining the continental family and rallying sister African nations to its cause through the vision of common development.
In short, Morocco’s long-standing position has finally been vindicated. The result is not something which was achieved in a few months. Nor is it transactional. It is based on Morocco’s sound principles on the Sahara which have held up for decades.