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Morocco, South Africa to resume diplomatic ties

December 5, 2017 at 3:44 pm

Former South African President Jacob Zuma [GovernmentZA/Flickr]

Diplomatic relations between Morocco and South Africa are to commence once again after decades of tensions, South African President Jacob Zuma said in an interview on Sunday.

Morocco recalled its ambassador from South Africa in 2004 after former South African president Thabo Mbeki recognised the breakaway Western Sahara region which Morocco claims as part of its territory.

“Morocco is an African nation and we need to have relations with them,” Zuma told City Press in the interview. “We never had problems with them anyway; they were the first to withdraw diplomatic relations.”

Zuma met Morocco’s King Mohammed last week on the sidelines of an African Union-European Union summit which also saw the Moroccan monarch attend along with the Polisario Front which represents the Sahrawi people in the disputed Western Sahara.

Read: 25 Sahrawis jailed for killing Moroccan security forces

“They felt that even if we differ on the Western Sahara issues, the two countries should have a relationship,” Zuma said about Moroccan officials’ position at the meeting.

South Africa’s official government position – as re-affirmed by Zuma in one of his state of the nation addresses – is to support “self-determination and decolonization for the Western Sahara”.

Morocco has controlled most of the Western Sahara, which is rich in phosphates and has seen some initial oil exploration efforts, since 1975. A ceasefire in 1991 called for a referendum on self-determination for Western Sahara, but the vote has never taken place.