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UK should support Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara – British MPs

The move would be consistent with Britain’s trade agreement with the North African nation, the lawmakers in London have stated

A group of lawmakers from the UK Parliament, including the House of Lords, has written to British Foreign Secretary David Cameron, demanding immediate recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over North Africa’s coastal Western Sahara region.

In a letter dated May 23, more than 30 MPs declared that a plan put forward by Rabat deserves Britain’s “unequivocal” support because it is the “only solution” to the ongoing conflict over the sparsely populated former Spanish colony, which Morocco annexed nearly five decades ago.

“Such support aligns with our principles and international commitments. It would not compromise our position in the British Overseas Territories, and it can contribute ultimately to peace in this vital region,” the group of parliamentarians stated.

The North African country has been locked in a decades-long conflict with the Sahrawi people, led by the Polisario Front movement, which fought a 15-year war for independence before agreeing to a fragile, UN-brokered ceasefire in 1991.

The annexation of Western Sahara also strained relations between Morocco and its neighbor Algeria, which has for long backed the autonomy of Western Sahara. Rabat has, however, insisted that limited autonomy is the best political solution it can offer the territory, where just over 550,000 people live.

In April 2007, Morocco submitted its Autonomy Plan for Western Sahara to the UN Security Council. According to the proposal, Rabat intends to delegate administrative, legislative, and judicial powers to local residents while retaining the Moroccan flag and currency. Morocco would also be in charge of the phosphate-rich region’s foreign policy, security, and defense.

Rabat has been engaging many countries, including African neighbors, to gain support for the plan, which US Secretary of State Antony Blinken hailed at the time as “serious, credible, and realistic,” despite the Polisario Front rejecting it.

To date, only Israel and its ally the US officially recognize Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara.

Last month, Western Sahara’s Information Ministry accused France of being in “flagrant violation” of international law over an alleged plan by Paris to finance projects in the disputed Sahrawi regions through the French Development Agency (AFD).

The ministry denounced the move as a provocative step.

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On Thursday, the group of British lawmakers described Rabat’s proposal as a “realistic and pragmatic approach,” asking the UK’s leadership to recognize that following “the example set by our main allies,” including the US and France, in backing Morocco is “indeed the right course of action.”

“This would also be consistent with our trade agreement with Morocco, which covers the Western Sahara,” according to the group’s letter.

“Remaining neutral or attempting alternative resolutions can only perpetuate a harmful status quo that jeopardizes the security of the region,” it added.

May 27, 2024 at 09:33PM
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