Audio Sources - Full Text Articles

Rabat urges France to come clear on Western Sahara 

Morocco keeps working diplomatically to get stable support to resolve the Saharawi conflict by demanding help of other important players, mainly, France.

The head of the Moroccan government, Aziz Akhannouch, pointed out that the French country must take a stand on Western Sahara issue and abandon the role of neutral observer.

The Alawi kingdom has been granted important international support for its proposal, which envisages broad autonomy for the territory under Moroccan sovereignty, respecting the postulates of the United Nations. They are the United States, the United Arab Emirates, Germany and the former Spanish colonial power.  

According to Rabat, France plays a key diplomatic role in Sahrawi issue. In this regard, Akhannouch continues sending messages to the French nation.  

A forthcoming official visit of President Emmanuel Macron to Rabat is expected this year; in this context the Saharawi issue started showing up in order to bring some political pressure on France. The Moroccan Prime-Minister went so far as to say that “the time has come to get out of this situation”. 

France finds itself in a difficult position because it is caught in the crossfire between Morocco, demanding a solution for the Saharawi conflict in its favor, and Algeria, a major political rival of the Moroccan kingdom. Algeria supports the Polisario Front, another declared enemy of Morocco, which advocates holding a referendum on independence for the Sahrawi population that enjoys less support on the international stage. 

Meanwhile Algeria demonstrates its steps to deepen relations with Russia, who try to extrude Paris from Africa.

The French state wants to maintain good relations with its two Maghreb neighbours, but their positions confront so much that it is difficult to be in a middle or grey equidistant zone between them. Especially taking into account that in August 2021 the Algerian state broke off relations with Morocco under accusations of political interference in its internal affairs.  

In an interview with the French newspaper L’Opinion, Akhannouch said that ‘there are important developments in the Sahara issue following the recognition of Morocco’s sovereignty over the Southern Provinces by the major powers’,and stressed that “Paris should not be a mere observer”. 

The head of the Moroccan government affirmed that France should follow the ‘major developments’ of the case. There are important mutual interests, which, in any case, are not threatened now, such as the economic question. Akhannouch explained that the economic relationship between the two countries “is not affected by the turmoil” and thus reassured French investors.  

Moroccan PM is confident that economic relationship with France must develop, focusing on the fact that French investments in Morocco have always been free and welcome, obviously, with no restrictions.  

The Western Sahara issue has seen important developments for Morocco in recent times, especially after the last US administration of Donald Trump recognized the Moroccan sovereignty of the Sahara in December 2020. Now Rabat expects Paris to clearly recognize its sovereignty over Western Sahara, following in the footsteps of, for example, Spain. The Spanish government of Pedro Sánchez recognized the Moroccan proposal as the “most serious, credible and realistic” way to resolve the Sahara issue. A political move that served to fully re-establish relations between the European country and the North African kingdom after the diplomatic crisis caused by the reception of Brahim Ghali, leader of the Polisario Front, on Spanish territory to be treated for a respiratory ailment and the subsequent Moroccan complaint about the lack of cooperation and information from a country considered an ally like Spain. 

The Moroccan request is in line with international developments in the Saharawi dossier, because France is politically responsible for Morocco in supporting Rabat in this conflict before the great powers recognized its sovereignty over the so-called Southern Provinces of Morocco. Given the exceptional relations between the two countries, a frank, direct and clear position on this conflict is now required, moving away from political equidistance to satisfy all parties. France is also called upon to change its political approach in order to boost diplomatic ties with Morocco, which is a genuine strategic partner. Meanwhile, Rabat may no longer put up with ambiguous positions on an issue that is of particular relevance to the nation.  

However, France is reportedly working to ‘find appeasement gestures’ in an attempt to put an end to the lingering diplomatic crisis with Morocco.

Catherine Colonna, the French Foreign Minister, confirmed last December that ‘France’s position on the Sahara is clear and consistent’. We support the ceasefire and the efforts of the United Nations and the UN special envoy for the Sahara in his tours, and we hope for the return of the political process for a just and realistic political solution’.

King Mohammed VI and Macron had a phone conversation that was taken as an ‘attempt to smooth the decidedly strained relations between Paris and Rabat’.

In September 2021, France announced its decision to cut the number of visas issued to Moroccans by 50%, arguing that the move was due to Morocco’s ‘unwillingness’ to cooperate in the extradition of irregular Moroccan migrants in France.

For his part, during the meeting with his French counterpart in the capital of the North African kingdom, Nasser Bourita, Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said that the time had come to make clear decisions and pointed out that “during the last three years there has been a remarkable development under the leadership of King Mohammed VI in the positions of several countries that are politically and geographically close to France’. ‘Paris is fully aware of the importance of the problem of the Moroccan Sahara for the Moroccans’, he added. 

With Morocco having made notable diplomatic strides on the Western Sahara question, the prevailing view in Rabat appears to be that Paris’s ambivalence makes it an unreliable partner for Rabat. So, some foreign powers could use this issue to undermine France’s position in the North Africa.

It is likely that Paris is considered to be too wait-and-see on Western Sahara – Morocco’s ‘national cause’ – and its new honeymoon with its Algerian regional rival, has made people cringe’ in Morocco.