Morocco’s FM: AU should remain neutral on Western Sahara

Salaheddine Mezouar, Moroccos Foreign Minister

Morocco’s foreign minister Salaheddine Mezouar  says the African Union should not get involved in the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic’s (SADR) ongoing situation.

During a press conference Capital attended in Rabat last week the minister said things would have been better if the African Union was not involved in the Sahrawi recognition question.

“It would have been better for the AU to remain neutral on the SADR issue, and its involvement caused us not to be able to come to a solution over the dispute and has challenged us to manage the situation and provide a solution,” he said. Last July, Morocco  asked to rejoin the African Union (AU), 32 years after it quit the bloc in protest over a decision by the AU to make the disputed territory of Western Sahara a member.

The Saharawi people’s Polisario Front movement, which demands self-determination for Western Sahara, wants a referendum on independence

Morocco considers Western Sahara an important part of the kingdom. The Saharawi people’s Polisario Front movement, which demands self-determination for Western Sahara, wants a referendum on independence.

Earlier this year, Morocco called for the UN to pull out several of its staff members and to close down a military liaison office for the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara  (MINURSO), a peacekeeping mission in response to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s use of the term “occupation” to describe Morocco’s presence in Western Sahara.

Capital asked the minister what the driving motivation is for Morocco to rejoin the African Union after so many years of voluntarily being away.

“We have many friends across Africa who are always advising us to rejoin AU because they believe that Morocco’s participation will strengthen the continent.

“Our nation’s policy is not static and the younger generation has new ideas and believes that joining the AU will benefit us,” he said.  The minister sounded hopeful that rejoining the AU would bring more intensity to the country’s relationship with other African nations.

“Morocco is an African country but our economic or diplomatic relationship with African states is not as it would have been if we had more interaction previously,” he said.

He added that the issue of recognizing SADIR as an independent state will not be on the table for discussion.

Morocco has occupied the sparsely populated Western Sahara area since 1975 in a move that was not recognized by the international community.

It maintains that Western Sahara is an integral part of the kingdom even though the local Sahrawi people have long campaigned for the right to self-determination.

In 1991, the United Nations brokered a ceasefire between Moroccan troops and Sahrawi rebels of the Algerian-backed Polisario Front but a promised referendum to settle the status of the desert territory never materializedg