France’s Perplexing Stance: Moroccan Sahara Unveiled


Former Ambassador of Morocco to the United Nations and professor at Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane, Mohammed Loulichki is Senior Fellow at OCP Policy Center. Previously, he was Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva (2006-2008). He was Director General of Multilateral Relations and Global Cooperation (2003-2006). Previously, he was Deputy Permanent Representative of Morocco to the UN in New York (2001-2003). He was also coordinator with Minurso, Laâyoune (1999-2001).

Israel has finally recognized the Moroccanness of the Sahara. A historical recognition, but not so surprising?
I think it was expected given the rapid and qualitative evolution of relations between Morocco and Israel. The two countries are driven by a real desire to move forward in their relations and to build a solid relationship that takes into account their mutual interests and expectations. This dynamic is based on an emotional base between the two societies, which makes it original and unique and provides it with the conditions for continuity and immunity, beyond contingencies and changes of government. The Israeli government knows very well the centrality of the Sahara issue for Morocco, its Sovereign and its people. As he knows the conditionality established by His Majesty between the strengthening of Morocco’s bilateral relations with other countries and support for Morocco’s sovereignty over its Sahara. As a result, those in charge knew perfectly well that the dynamic of cooperation, whatever its momentum and intensity, will retain a taste of incompleteness as long as this recognition of territorial character has not been recorded. It also joins, in its purpose and spirit, the Tripartite Declaration signed on December 22, 2020 between the United States, Israel and Morocco, under which the three countries are committed to strengthening their dynamic and innovative economic cooperation. In all areas. It is added to the American recognition, to that of the brother countries of the Gulf and to the other countries belonging to different continents which have either supported the autonomy initiative as the exclusive or preeminent framework for a solution, or translated this recognition by the act of opening of a consulate in the southern provinces.

In his letter addressed to the Sovereign, Binyamin Netanyahu indicated that this position will be reflected in all acts and documents of the Israeli government and will be transmitted to the United Nations. What does this imply concretely?
The concretization of the recognition of the Moroccanness of the Sahara in all the relevant acts and documents of the Israeli government, the announcement of the opening of a consulate in Dakhla and the distribution of the act of recognition to international and regional organizations will not fail to give pause to countries which are still slow to take the plunge and further embarrass those who hesitate to recognize the evidence of this artificial dispute. This distribution will thus be done systematically by the United Nations Secretariat each time the question of the Sahara is addressed by the Security Council, the General Assembly, the Fourth Committee or the Decolonization Committee. These new developments will be duly reflected by the UN Secretary-General in his forthcoming Report to the Security Council and the General Assembly in their forthcoming deliberations. The dissemination of the act of recognition will challenge most members of the United Nations on the merits of the solution approach advocated by Morocco to put an end to the tension stubbornly maintained by Algeria in the region. Finally, the distribution by the Israeli government of this act of recognition to the members of the African Union, through the embassy of this country in Addis Ababa, will contribute to reviving questions among the African States on the illegitimate and anachronistic presence among the Pan-African Organization of an entity devoid of the attributes of a sovereign State and not recognized internationally.

What will be its impact on relations between the two countries?

At a time when Morocco is preparing to revive its economy after the Covid-19 crisis and the consequences of the war in Ukraine, this cooperation can only be beneficial in strengthening the resilience of the Moroccan economy and contributing to the success of policies. particularly in the fields of health, agriculture, employment, water management, renewable energies and investment, including in the Moroccan Sahara. Furthermore, cooperation in defense and armaments is of particular importance, especially given the difficult context prevailing in the region. It enables Morocco to obtain or equip itself with the means of deterrence necessary to defend itself against any external threat and to protect its territory and its population in all circumstances and against all dangers.

A recognition that does not, however, weaken Morocco’s position in favor of the Palestinian cause…
Morocco receives Israeli recognition not only as a factor in the development and deepening of bilateral cooperation between the two countries, but also as an incentive to work for peace in the Middle East region. Indeed, while expressing his appreciation for this recognition, His Majesty wished to recall in the reply message to the Israeli Prime Minister Morocco’s attachment to peace in the region, symbolized by the Royal Presidency of the Al Quds Committee and the constancy of its commitment to the two-state solution, Palestinian and Israeli, living side by side, in peace, with East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital, in accordance with international legality.

More and more major powers are siding with Morocco in the conflict over the Moroccan Sahara. Is Algeria more than ever isolated on the international scene?
Indeed, in recent years, several countries, and not the least important, have officially and publicly declared their support for Morocco’s sovereignty over its southern provinces and for the Moroccan autonomy initiative as the most appropriate, realistic and the most promising to end the regional dispute over the Moroccan Sahara. All of the countries that matter on the international scene have come out, with some nuances, in favor of the Moroccan autonomy proposal for three main reasons: its conformity with international standards in terms of autonomy, the dimension of the rights of the as a central element and the consultation of the populations of the Sahara on the autonomy negotiated as an expression of their right to self-determination.
Today, we find ourselves in a positive dynamic favorable to Morocco. As for Algeria, it has put itself outside international legality because it even rejects round tables as the beginnings of a resumption of talks between the parties without distinction. Algeria and with it the Polisario continue to cling to the logic of the Cold War which allows them to exist and find themselves in the docks of the accused. However, this country is called to sit on the UN Security Council from January 1, 2024. It will therefore be faced with its regional and international responsibilities. The world will have the opportunity to judge whether the behavior of this country during the next two years will live up to the demands of a member of the Council, called upon to act on behalf of all the members of the United Nations and particularly in the interest of Africa’s security and stability, or whether it will strive to thwart the will of the international community to end this dispute.

A dispute that has lasted too long in the face of a dialogue of the deaf on the side of the neighbor to the East…
It is true that this dispute has been going on for almost half a century and the first thing that comes to mind are its painful and intolerable human consequences for the populations of the Tindouf camps who live in conditions of deprivation and separation from their families who remained in the Moroccan Sahara. Morocco calls for the success of the efforts of the United Nations to settle this dispute definitively, while respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Kingdom. He is doing everything to help the Organization move forward in implementing the political solution recommended by the Security Council. Conversely, it is Algeria that is hampering these efforts and condemning the process to the status quo. It is Algeria that spends billions of dollars to support separatism, provides it with arms and funds it to maintain instability in the Maghreb sub-region.
It is she who devoted a staggering budget of 23 billion dollars in 2023 to obtain sophisticated armaments, which far exceed her real national defense needs. Finally, it is Algeria which persists in making the UN efforts regress by continuing to cling to the referendum, which the UN has completely renounced for nearly a quarter of a century and which no longer finds a place in the Security Council resolutions since 2001.

Over the past 10 years, Algeria has spent $103 billion on arms. Is this the priority for the Algerian people?
The needs and aspirations of the brotherly Algerian people are common to all the peoples of the African continent. Their names are health, education, employment, housing and stability. They are also those of a peaceful life in freedom and dignity, in a peaceful neighborhood that allows the two peoples to reconnect with their common history and release their energies to build a united and united Maghreb. As far as it is concerned, Morocco will continue its outstretched hand policy reiterated in the Speech from the Throne.

Moroccan diplomacy, which has become more active, has collected geopolitical victories in recent years…
The clearly expressed and faithfully implemented royal pragmatic vision in terms of foreign policy has enabled Morocco to navigate easily between the constraints, challenges and crises of all kinds that are shaking the world. The adherence of Moroccans to the royal vision reinforces and consolidates its legitimacy. The upheavals experienced by the world and the uncertainties surrounding the future evolution of the international context have led Morocco to adapt its methods of action, its strategies and its instruments to the new international realities. The decline of multilateralism, the prioritization of national interests and the reconfiguration of alliances have encouraged Morocco to support these transformations, by diversifying its partners without weakening its traditional strategic partnerships. Morocco’s management of the Covid-19 health crisis has demonstrated the relevance of the choices that have been made to ensure the national supply of vaccines to protect the Moroccan people from need, thanks to the Special Fund created on high royal instructions. Likewise, the balanced position based on the principles of the United Nations Charter that Morocco has adopted regarding the war in Ukraine has earned it the understanding of the parties and the respect of other States.

Is it time for France to review its ambiguous position on this conflict?
With the proliferation of declarations of support for the Moroccan position, the pressure will become increasingly strong on hesitant countries such as France and on countries hostile to the integrity of the Kingdom which remain, moreover, very much in the minority. France’s attitude is more and more incomprehensible, because it has a responsibility that goes back to the colonial period when the colonial authorities amputated Morocco from important parts of its territory to enlarge that of Algeria, then placed under the Overseas Departments scheme.
Admittedly, France has supported the autonomy proposal in the past, as have the other members of the Council, but France is one of Morocco’s leading economic partners, its cultural presence has no equal abroad, it is a member of the “Friends of the Secretary General of the United Nations” for the management of this file, it is a member of the European Union, Morocco’s main economic partner and with which the Kingdom wants to build a more ambitious advanced partnership and more engaging. Consequently, and in view of the development of the international file with the number of support, particularly European, for the autonomy initiative, Morocco is entitled to expect France to develop its position in the sense of frank and clear support for autonomy as the “only solution” to this dispute.

On another note, how do you read Moroccan soft power in Africa and how does it adapt to the new challenges of the continent?
Morocco’s relations with Africa do not date from yesterday or from this century. They are a sedimentation of several centuries. This is what makes them durable and their great potential for the future. For two decades, Morocco is no longer concentrated only in the western part of the continent, it is deployed diplomatically and economically in other regions. The example of the OCP group symbolizes this ambition and this vision which is being realized almost everywhere on the continent. The group is now a pioneering supplier of fertilizer solutions adapted to the conditions and needs of local soils and crops, thanks to the optimization of the use of new technologies and innovative solutions. The experiences developed in Ethiopia, Kenya, Ghana and Tanzania are a concrete example of this African solidarity and South-South cooperation advocated by the Sovereign.

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