Western Sahara Movement Denounces U.S. Embrace of Morocco Rule

The armed independence movement in Western Sahara condemned the Trump administration for recognizing Morocco’s claim to the territory as it announced a peace deal between the kingdom and Israel, vowing to make the “sacrifices” necessary to advance their struggle.

President Donald Trump on Thursday announced he was accepting Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara, a significant shift in a dispute that has affected the North African state’s international standing, as he outlined the accord between Rabat and Israel.

The Polisario Front, which has been seeking independence in the former Spanish colony for almost five decades, denounced Trump’s move as “a flagrant violation” of the United Nations charter and international law.

Trump “recognized that which Morocco does not possess, namely ‘sovereignty over Western Sahara’,” Polisario said in a statement carried by its Sahrawi Press Service. “The Sahrawi people will continue their legitimate struggle by all means to defend their sovereignty.”

Referendum Plan

Sporadic fighting between Morocco and the Front claimed about 9,000 lives over 16 years until a 1991 cease-fire.

Morocco has long opposed holding a referendum for the region that offered the option of independence, a choice envisaged by the UN when it brokered the truce that largely held until last month.

Polisario in November declared the cease-fire fire over after Moroccan authorities ended a two-week-long demonstration by its supporters at a southern border point that’s Rabat’s main artery for overland trade with West Africa. The group has since claimed attacks on Moroccan outposts.

Moroccan lobbying over the past two decades has led some countries to drop their support for Polisario as the legitimate representatives of the Sahrawi people. South Africa, Mexico, Iran, Algeria are among the nations that still do.

The U.S. tilt in favor Morocco “will further complicate prospects for security and stability in the region,” Polisario’s envoy to Europe, Oubi Bouchraya Bachir, said in an interview. “It will encourage Morocco’s defiance and intransigence that led to the collapse of both the political process and the cease-fire.”

The accord between Israel and Morocco bolsters Trump’s efforts to reshape the Middle East, easing regional tensions with the Jewish state and focusing more attention on Iran.

President-elect Joe Biden has largely praised the diplomatic deals with Israel, while saying Trump’s Mideast policies have undermined U.S. national security, particularly with regard to Iran.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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