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Western Sahara: King Mohammed VI Says Administration Changes Cannot Affect US Recognition

Rabat - In a speech this past Saturday, King Mohamed VI reasserted the centrality of the Western Sahara question for Morocco's diplomacy. In particular, the King responded to pro-Polisario lobbying attempts seeking to pressure the US into a change of heart over its position on Western Sahara. 

The US' December 10 proclamation in support of Morocco’s territorial integrity is the backbone of the Rabat-Washington relations, he said, hinting at the strategic depth of the US-Morocco relations and the improbability of a reversal of the December 10 proclamation.

Many pro-Polisario lobbyists inside and outside the US administration have been pushing for Washington to reconsider its support of Morocco's Western Sahara stance. 

In his speech, King Mohammed VI sent a clear message to these pro-Polisario activists and lobbyists, indicating that the US position in favor of Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara  is neither affected by a change of administration in Washington nor influenced by new circumstances.

Former US President Donald Trump recognized Morocco’s territorial integrity and sovereignty over Western Sahara on December 10, 2020, signing a proclamation that officialized Washington’s endorsement of Morocco’s Autonomy Plan as the only basis for a just and lasting solution to the dispute over the territory.

“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,” the proclamation reads

The text also urged all parties to the dispute to engage in discussions without delay and use Rabat’s autonomy initiative as the only framework to negotiate a mutually acceptable solution.

Even before the December 10 proclamation, analysts and experts had predicted the move and emphasized the implausibility of the pro-Polisario camp’s dreams of a new state in southern Morocco.

A forever ‘no change’ in US position

A year before the US recognition, the Wall Street Journal published what was then considered a bombshell report on the impossibility of a recession in the Sahara region. Citing senior US officials, the report indicated Washington's attachment to  Morocco’s territorial integrity as the guarantor of peace and stability in the disputed region.

“Officials involved in the talks said the U.S. has made it clear that Washington doesn't support a plan that leads to a new African nation,” the report said.

Almost two years into the December 10 proclamation, the Biden administration has frequently signaled its unwillingness to reverse Washington's support for Morocco and torpedo strategic relations with one of America's strongest and most reliable allies in the MENA.

In July 2021, State Department spokesperson Ned Price made the White House’s position on Western Sahara crystal clear amid questions from pro-Polisario activists who hoped to see a change in America's stance over the Sahara issue.

In a press conference, Price said that the proclamation recognizing Morocco’s territorial integrity remains the Biden administration’s position. “I have no update for you… there is no change,” Price said.

More strengthened cooperation

Many US officials celebrated the new Rabat-Washington momentum in the aftermath of the December 10 recognition, calling on the US to forge even better and deeper ties with Morocco for regional peace.

Former US Army Lieutenant General Steven Blum has recently emphasized the importance of the proclamation recognizing Morocco’s territorial integrity and stressed the need for the current US administration to uphold American support for Morocco in the Sahara dispute.

The US and Morocco continue to emphasize the importance of working together in all fields, particularly in the fight against terrorism.

Likewise, US State Departments Country reports on terrorism have long emphasized the importance of Morocco’s counterterrorism efforts, describing the country’s approach as comprehensive and laudable when it comes to mitigating the threats of terror organizations in the region.

Lobbying attempts continue

However lukewarm compared to the spirit of the tripartite agreement signed in December 2020,  the Biden administration’s support for Morocco’s position continues to anger pro-Polisario lobbyists and the Algerian regime.

Some senators inside the US administration have also been vocal against Morocco’s territorial integrity and the US proclamation.

Most recently, Republican Senator James Inhofe, who is also known to be among the most outspoken pro-Polisario activists in Washington, lobbied for the US Defense Department to strip Morocco of the right to host the African Lion exercise, the largest US-sponsored annual military drill in Africa.

In July, Inhofe brought up the Western Sahara dispute at a confirmation hearing for the nominees to lead Africa Command and Special Operations Command (AFRICON),  urging the US defense department “to look at alternative locations to hold the annual African lion military exercise,” Defense News reported.

Just a day after reports of Inhofe's remarks, however, General Stephen J. Townsend, the Commander of the US Africa Command (AFRICOM), held a press briefing in which he emphasized the difficulty for the US  to find an alternative as good as Morocco to host the annual military exercise.

Describing Morocco as a fantastic host thanks to its first-rate infrastructure and military capabilities, the commander said: “It will be difficult to find any country in Africa, I think, that can probably approach what Morocco has been able to do over 18 years.” 

Most critically, he ruled out and cast doubt on Inhofe’s claims that a change in the African Lion location might ultimately bring about a change of heart in Washington regarding the legitimacy of Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara. 

Source: Morocco World News.

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