Political status of Western Sahara

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Western Sahara, formerly the Spanish colony of Spanish Sahara, is a disputed territory claimed by both the Kingdom of Morocco and the Polisario Front. It is listed by the United Nations (UN), as a non-decolonized territory and is thus included in the United Nations List of Non-Self-Governing Territories.

Since the Madrid Accords of 1975, a part of Western Sahara has been administered by Morocco as the Southern Provinces. Another section, the Liberated Territories, is administered by the Polisario Front as the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR). Mauritania administers temporally the western half of the Ras Nouadhibou Peninsula. A UN-monitored cease-fire has been in effect since September 1991.

In order to resolve the sovereignty issue, the UN has attempted to hold a referendum through the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), and is holding direct talks between the Kingdom of Morocco and the Polisario Front. The UN recognizes neither Moroccan[1] nor SADR sovereignty over Western Sahara.

Positions of the main parties[edit]

Kingdom of Morocco[edit]

The official position of the Kingdom of Morocco since 1963 is that all of Western Sahara is an integral part of the kingdom. The Moroccan government refers to Western Sahara only as the "Sahara", "Moroccan Sahara", "Saharan provinces", or the "Southern Provinces".[citation needed]

According to the Moroccan government, in 1958 the Moroccan Army of Liberation fought Spanish colonizers and almost liberated what was then Spanish Sahara.[citation needed] The fathers of many of the Polisario leaders were among the veterans of the Moroccan Southern Army, for example the father of Polisario leader Mohammed Abdelaziz. Morocco is supported in this view[clarification needed] by a number of former Polisario founders and leaders. The Polisario Front is considered by Morocco to be a Moroccan separatist movement, referring to the Moroccan origins of most of its founding members, and its self-proclaimed SADR to be a puppet state used by Algeria to fight a proxy war against Morocco.

Polisario Front / self-proclaimed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic[edit]

Ways to show Western Sahara in maps

The Polisario Front, mainly backed by Algeria, is described by itself and its supporters as a national liberation movement that opposes Moroccan control of Western Sahara, whilst it is considered by Morocco and supporters of Morocco's claims over the Western Sahara to be a separatist organisation. It began as a movement of students who felt torn between the divergent Spanish and Moroccan influences on the country. The original goal of the Polisario, which was to end Spanish colonialism in the region, was achieved, but their neighbours, Morocco and Mauritania, seized sovereignty of the region, which the Polisario felt belonged to it. The Polisario engaged in guerrilla warfare with the Moroccan and Mauritanian forces. It evacuated the Sahrawi population to the Tindouf refugee camps due to Royal Moroccan Air Force bombing of the refugee camps on Sahrawi land with napalm and white phosphorus.[2][3]

The Polisario Front has called for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara to be decided through a referendum. Although the SADR is not recognised as a state by the UN, the Polisario is considered a direct participant in the conflict and as the legitimate representative of the Sahrawi people, recognized by the United Nations since 1979.[4]

The Polisario Front argues that Morocco's position is due to economical interests (fishing, phosphate mining, and the potential for oil reserves) and political reasons (stability of the king's position and the governing elite in Morocco, deployment of most of the Moroccan Army in Western Sahara instead of in Morocco). The Polisario Front proclaimed the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic in Bir Lehlou (Western Sahara), on 27 February 1976.

Mauritania[edit]

Claims on Western Sahara had proliferated since the 1960s, fuelled by Mauritanian President Moktar Ould Daddah. Before Mauritania signed the Madrid Accords and after the withdrawal of the last Spanish forces, in late 1975, the Mauritanian Army invaded the southern part of Western Sahara, while the Moroccan Army did the same in the north. In April 1976, Mauritania and Morocco partitioned the country into three parts, Mauritania getting the southern one, which was named Tiris al-Gharbiyya. Mauritania waged four years of war against Polisario guerrillas, conducting raids on Nouakchott, attacks on the Zouerate mine train and a coup d'état that deposed Ould Daddah. Mauritania finally withdrew in the summer of 1979, after signing the Argel Accord with the Polisario Front, recognizing the right of self-determination for the Sahrawi people, and renouncing any claims on Western Sahara. The Moroccan Army immediately took control of the former Mauritanian territory. Mauritania recognized the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic on 27 February 1984.

Algeria[edit]

Algeria has supported the independence of Western Sahara diplomatically since 1975, as it has done so, with several other oppressed and colonised countries and liberation movements.At the time,Algeria was known as the Mecca of the revolutionaries and the oppressed.Revolutionary fighter and thinker Amilcar Cabral had famously said, “Muslims go to Mecca, the revolutionaries go to Algeria". Algeria's role became indirect, through political and military support for the Polisario Front. Algeria recognized the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic on 6 March 1976.

United Nations[edit]

A demonstration in Bilbao for the independence of the Western Sahara.

On the UN list of territories to be decolonized , when it was still a Spanish colony. It has retained that status due to the persistence of the conflict.[5] The UN has been involved since 1988 in trying to find a solution to the conflict through self-determination. In 1988, the Kingdom of Morocco and the Polisario Front agreed to settle the dispute through a referendum under the auspices of the UN that would allow the people of Western Sahara to choose between independence or integration with Morocco. In 1991, a ceasefire was agreed upon between the parties, contingent on the referendum being held the following year. Due to disputes over voter qualification, the vote has still not been held, and Morocco has made it clear in 2000 that henceforth it will not consider any option leading to the independence of the territory,[citation needed] and instead, is now proposing autonomy within Morocco. Lately,[when?] the UN has argued for negotiations between Morocco and the Polisario Front to resolve the deadlock, culminating in the Manhasset negotiations.

Positions of other states[edit]

Positions on the status of Western Sahara:
  Supports Morocco's territorial claim (including support for autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty); Relations with the SADR terminated and/or recognition withdrawn (if no other position expressed)
  Maintains diplomatic relations with or recognises the Sahrawi Republic
  Recognises the self-determination of the Sahrawi people, but does not recognize the SADR nor maintain diplomatic relations with it (if no other position expressed)
  Has not expressed any position or has expressed conflicting opinions

The following lists contain the following states and entities:

Although no state has formally recognised Moroccan sovereignty on Western Sahara, some states are supportive of the "right of self-determination", including the option of autonomy under Morocco sovereignty. Some states have changed their opinion frequently or have given separate announcements of support for both Morocco and the Polisario Front/SADR (Paraguay, Belgium, Benin, Botswana, Burundi, Chile, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Guinea-Bissau, Malawi, Peru, Russia, Sierra Leone, Swaziland).[citation needed]

Some of the states announcing support of the "right of self-determination" currently recognize the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic. Not all of the states that have terminated diplomatic relations with or withdrawn recognition of the SADR have announced their support for the Moroccan claims.

Some states have not announced any position as of 2014.

States supporting Polisario and SADR on Western Sahara[edit]

# State
1  Algeria
2  Angola
3  Benin
4  Bolivia
5  Botswana
6  Burundi
8  Costa Rica
9  Cuba
10  Dominica
11  Dominican Republic
12  East Timor
13  Ecuador
14  El Salvador
15  Ethiopia
16  Fiji
17  Ghana
18  Guatemala
19  Guinea-Bissau
20  Guyana
21  Haiti
22  Iran
23  Jamaica
24  Lesotho
25  Malawi
26  Mexico
27  Mozambique
28  Namibia
29  Nicaragua
30  Nigeria
31  Peru
32  Rwanda
33  São Tomé and Príncipe
34  South Africa
35  Tanzania
36  Trinidad and Tobago
37  Uganda
38  Uruguay
39  Venezuela
40  Vietnam
41  Zambia
42  Zimbabwe

States supporting Moroccan claims on Western Sahara[edit]

States expressing support for Moroccan claims and/or the Moroccan autonomy plan.

Although no state has formally recognised Moroccan sovereignty on Western Sahara, some states are supportive of the "right of self-determination", including the option of autonomy under Morocco sovereignty. Some states have changed their opinion frequently or have given separate announcements of support for both Morocco and the Polisario Front/SADR (Paraguay, Belgium, Benin, Botswana, Burundi, Chile, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Guinea-Bissau, Malawi, Peru, Russia, Sierra Leone, Swaziland).[citation needed]

Some of the states announcing support of the "right of self-determination" currently recognize the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic. Not all of the states that have terminated diplomatic relations with or withdrawn recognition of the SADR have announced their support for the Moroccan claims. Some states have not announced any position as of 2014

France

France enjoys close relations with Morocco. It is the kingdom's leading trade partner and the leading source of public development aid and private investments. The country claims neutrality on the Western Sahara issue, despite its military involvement in the Western Sahara War on the side of Morocco and Mauritania (see Operation Lamantin). In 2009[6][7] and 2010,[8][9] France used the threat of its veto power to block the establishment of Human Rights monitoring by the MINURSO in Western Sahara. France has been a major backer of the Moroccan autonomy plan and in the EU negotiated the concession of the advanced status to Morocco.[10]

United States
Photo of Former Assistant Secretary of State, David Welch (2005–2008) who in 2007 expressed strong support for Morocco and its autonomy plan in the conflict over Western Sahara, calling the plan a "serious and credible" solution.[11]

The Obama administration disassociated itself from Moroccan autonomy plan in 2009, however, reversing the Bush-backed support of the Moroccan plan, and returning to a pre-Bush position, wherein the option of an independent Western Sahara is on the table again.[12]

In April 2009, 229 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, a clear majority and more than 50 more than the number who signed the letter[clarification needed] in 2007, called on President Obama to support Morocco's autonomy plan and to assist in drawing the conflict to a close. The signers[clarification needed] included Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Republican Minority Leader John Boehner. In addition to acknowledging that Western Sahara has become a recruiting post for radical Islamists, the letter affirmed that the conflict is "the single greatest obstacle impending the security and cooperation necessary to combat" terrorism in the Maghreb.[13] The letter referenced UN Security Council Resolution 1813 (2008), and encouraged President Obama to follow the policy set by President Clinton and followed by President Bush.[13] The congressmen expressed concerns about Western Sahara's viability. They referenced a UN fact-finding mission to Western Sahara which confirmed the State Department's view that the Polisario proposal, which ultimately stands for independence, would lead to a non-viable state.[13] In closing, the letter stated, "We remain convinced that the U.S. position, favoring autonomy for Western Sahara under Moroccan sovereignty is the only feasible solution. We urge you to both sustain this longstanding policy, and to make clear, in both words and actions, that the United States will work to ensure that the UN process continues to support this framework as the only realistic compromise that can bring this unfortunate and longstanding conflict to an end."[13] Commenting on a 2004 free trade agreement with Morocco, US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick stated in a letter to Congressman Joe Pitts in response to his questioning, "the United States and many other countries do not recognize Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara and have consistently urged the parties to work with the United Nations to resolve the conflict by peaceful means. The Free Trade Agreement will not include Western Sahara."[14][15]

Photo of Former US Ambassador to Morocco, Samuel L. Kaplan (2009–2013) who in April 2013 expressed that the position of the United States is that Morocco's autonomy plan "can't be the only basis in these negotiations".[16]

In April 2013, the United States proposed that MINURSO monitored human rights (as all the other UN mission since 1991) in Western Sahara, a move that Morocco strongly opposed, cancelling the annual African Lion military exercises with US Army troops.[17] Also in mid-April, United States Ambassador to Morocco Samuel L. Kaplan declared during a conference in Casablanca that the Moroccan autonomy plan "can't be the only basis in these negotiations", referring to the UN sponsored talks between the Polisario Front and Morocco.[18]

States which recognize the Sahrawi Republic
# State Notes References
1  Azerbaijan [19][20]
2  Bahrain [21]
3  Benin [22]
4  Belarus [23]
5  Bulgaria European UnionEU member [24][25][26]
6  Burkina Faso [27]
7  Cameroon [22]
8  Central African Republic [28][29]
9  Chile [30][31][32][33]
10  Cambodia [34]
11  Colombia [35][36][37][38]
12  Comoros [39]
13  Democratic Republic of Congo [40]
14  Djibouti [41]
15  Dominican Republic [42]
16  Equatorial Guinea [43]
17  Hungary European UnionEU member [44][45]
18  Indonesia [46][47]
19  France United Nationspermanent member of UNSC
European UnionEU member
[48][49][50][51]
[52][53]
20  Gabon [54]
21  Gambia [55][56][57][58]
22  Guinea [59]
23  Kuwait Arab LeagueArab league member [60]
24  Macedonia [61][62]
25  Madagascar [63][64]
26  Maldives [65]
27  Nauru [66]
28  Netherlands European UnionEU member [67][68]
29  Niger [22][69]
30  Peru [70][71][72]
31  Poland European UnionEU member [73][74][75][76]
32  Romania European UnionEU member [77]
33  Russia United Nationspermanent member of UNSC [78][79]
34  Saudi Arabia Arab LeagueArab league member [80]
35  Senegal [81][82]
36  Serbia [83][84]
37  Seychelles [85]
38  Sudan Arab LeagueArab league member [86][87]
39  Swaziland [88]
40  Turkey [89]
41  United States United Nationspermanent member of UNSC [90][91][92]
[93][94]
42  Yemen Arab LeagueArab league member [95]

States which have not announced any position[edit]

The following states and entities have not announced any position:

Positions of international organizations[edit]

Organization Membership Position
African Union (Formerly OAU) 22 February 1982 The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic is a fully recognised AU founding member.[96] The African Union supports the right of self-determination of the Sahrawi people.[97]
Flag of the Andean Community of Nations.svg Andean Community of Nations 26 October 2011 (Observer) The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic is an Observer member in the framework of the Andean Parliament.[98][99]
Arab League Arab League Not a member. The Arab League supports the efforts by the Secretary General of the United Nations and his Personal Envoy to find a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution which will allow the self-determination of the people of the Western Sahara as provided for in the resolutions of the United Nations
Emblem of Maghreb.svg Arab Maghreb Union Not a member. The Arab Maghreb Union supports the efforts by the Secretary General of the United Nations and his Personal Envoy to find a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution which will allow the self-determination of the people of the Western Sahara as provided for in the resolutions of the United Nations
Flag of CARICOM.svg Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Not a member. The CARICOM supports the right of the Western Sahara people's to self-determination, consistent with the principles and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations.[100]
Community of Latin American and Caribbean States Not a member. The CELAC supports efforts by all parties to achieve a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution that would provide for the right of self-determination for the inhabitants.[101]
Flag of Europe.svg European Union Not a member. The EU supports the efforts by the Secretary General of the United Nations and his Personal Envoy to find a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution which will allow the self-determination of the people of the Western Sahara as provided for in the resolutions of the United Nations.[102][103]
Non-Aligned Movement Not a member. The NAM supports the right of the Western Sahara people's to self-determination, consistent with the principles and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations and General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV) of 14 December 1960.[104]
Organisation of Islamic Cooperation Organisation of Islamic Cooperation Not a member. The OIC supports the achievement of a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution that would provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara consistent with relevant resolutions
Rio Group Not a member. The Rio Group supports the resolutions adopted by the UN to achieve a just, lasting and mutually acceptable solution that leads to the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara, in the context of compatible accords with the principles of the UN charter and the Resolution 1514 (XV) of the General Assembly and other pertinent resolutions.[105][106]
Flag of UNASUR.svg Union of South American Nations Not a member. The UNASUR supports for the achievement of a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution that would provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara consistent with relevant resolutions.[101]
 United Nations Not a member. The UN does not recognize Moroccan claims, as the Western Sahara remains in its List of Non-Self-Governing Territories since 1963. The Security Council had argued for direct negotiations between Morocco and the Polisario Front.[107] It had approved more than 100 resolutions supporting the right of Self-determination of the Sahrawi people.

The SADR is also a member of the Asian-African Strategic Partnership, formed at the 2005 Asian-African Conference, over Moroccan objections to SADR participation.[108]

In 2006, the SADR participated in a conference of the Permanent Conference of Political Parties of the Latin American and the Caribbean.[109]

In 2010, the SADR ambassador to Nicaragua participated in the opening conference of the Central American Parliament[110]

African Union

On 22 February 1982, the SADR secured membership in the Organisation of African Unity.[111]

The African Union (formerly the OAU) has given the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic full recognition,[96] and accepted it as a member state (which has led Morocco to leave the union.[112]). Mohamed Abdelaziz, president of the SADR, has been vicepresident of the OUA in 1985, and of the AU in 2002.

European Union

The European Union supports the right of self-determination of the Sahrawi people (the MINURSO UN-sponsored referendum),[113] but does not recognize the Polisario Front.[114][unreliable source?] Over practical issues such as fishing in the EEZ the EU deals with Morocco as the country currently exercising "jurisdiction, but not sovereignty" over the Western Sahara territory.[115] In addition, members of the EFTA trade bloc have made statements excluding the Western Sahara from the Moroccan-EFTA free trade agreement.[116]

United Nations

Since 1966, the United Nations request for the celebration of a referendum for enabling the "indigenous population" to exercise freely their right to self-determination.[117] Since 1979, the United Nations has recognized the Polisario Front as the representative of the people of Western Sahara, and considered Morocco as an occupying force.[4]

Former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan stressed, in his last report on Western Sahara, to the Security Council:

"The Security Council would not be able to invite parties to negotiate about Western Saharan autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty, for such wording would imply recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara, which was out of the question as long as no States Member of the United Nations had recognized that sovereignty".[118] Spain is still considered as the administrative power, but Morocco however is the de facto administrating power since it controls most of the territory."[119]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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Bibliography[edit]

  • Hodges, Tony. Western Sahara: Roots of a Desert War, Lawrence Hill & Company, 1983, ISBN 0-88208-152-7, p. 308
  • Hodges, Tony, and Pazzanita, Anthony. Historical Dictionary of Western Sahara, 2 ed., Scarecrow Press, 1994, ISBN 0-8108-2661-5, pp. 378–379.
  • Janos, Besenyo (2009). Western Sahara (PDF). Pécs: Publikon Publishers. ISBN 978-963-88332-0-4. 

External links[edit]

Tables of states recognizing the SADR[edit]