Germany backs Moroccan autonomy plan for W. Sahara

Germany backs Moroccan autonomy plan for W. Sahara

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock shakes hands with Moroccan counterpart Nasser Bourita on a visit to Rabat
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock shakes hands with Moroccan counterpart Nasser Bourita on a visit to Rabat. Photo: FADEL SENNA / AFP
Source: AFP

Germany gave its backing on Thursday to a Moroccan autonomy plan for resolving the Western Sahara conflict, days after the North African country's king urged allies to "clarify their positions".

A joint statement issued at the end of a visit to Rabat by Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said that "Germany considers... the autonomy plan presented in 2007 as a serious and credible effort by Morocco and as a good basis for a solution agreed upon between both parties."

Morocco has long insisted that it must retain sovereignty over Western Sahara, a parched but strategically important desert territory where the Polisario movement has mounted a decades-long struggle for independence, backed by Morocco's main adversary Algeria.

In 2020, the Donald Trump administration recognised Moroccan sovereignty over the territory in return for improved ties with Israel and Rabat has since stepped up pressure on other countries to follow suit.

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Morocco had suspended ties with Germany, one of its main trading partners, in March 2021, citing "deep misunderstandings" after Berlin criticised Trump's move.

But Rabat in December last year welcomed "positive" statements by German officials on the issue.

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The German move comes after Spain in March dropped its long-held policy of neutrality and backed Rabat's 2007 plan for limited self-rule in the territory, ending a year-long diplomatic crisis sparked by Madrid hosting Polisario leader Brahim Ghali for Covid-19 treatment.

Baerbock's visit to Morocco comes as French President Emmanuel Macron visits Algeria.

On Saturday, King Mohammed VI called on allies to "clarify" their position on Western Sahara and "unequivocally" back the autonomy plan.

Moroccan media interpreted the comments as a message to France, which has nevertheless called the autonomy plan "a basis for serious and credible discussions".

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Rabat sees the Western Sahara as an integral part of the kingdom and a highly sensitive issue of security and national pride.

The desert territory boasts rich Atlantic fisheries, phosphate resources and a land route to markets in West Africa.

The Polisario waged a long armed struggle for independence from Morocco before agreeing a ceasefire in 1991 on the promise of a UN-supervised referendum on self-determination -- which has never happened.

Source: AFP

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