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Bahrain to open consulate in Western Sahara, Morocco says

November 27, 2020 at 8:22 am

King of Bahrain, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa attends the closing session of the 37th Leaders Summit by Gulf Cooperation Council member states in Manama, Bahrain on 7 December 2016 [Stringer/Anadolu Agency]

Bahrain will open a consulate in Morocco-controlled Western Sahara, Morocco’s Royal palace said, joining other Arab states in supporting Rabat after the disputed territory’s Polisario independence movement said it had resumed its armed struggle, Reuters reports.

The consulate will be in Laayoune, the largest city in Western Sahara, and the decision to open it came after a phone call between King Mohammed VI and King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrain.

The Algeria-backed Polisario seeks independence for Western Sahara, a vast desert region Morocco has held since Spain withdrew in 1975 and which Rabat considers Morocco’s southern provinces.

The UAE was the first Arab state to open a diplomatic mission in Laayoune earlier this month, and Morocco said Jordan would follow suit.

READ: Morocco says its move in Sahara ‘not military action’

Haiti will be the first non-Arab and non-African state to open a consulate in Dakhla in Western Sahara’s south, the Moroccan Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday.

Some 16 African states have opened consulates in Western Sahara as Rabat has garnered support for its position over the conflict after joining the African Union in 2017.

The Polisario Front said on Nov. 13 it had quit a U.N.-brokered ceasefire and declared war, following a Moroccan military move to clear a road that has been blocked for three weeks by pro-Polisairo supporters and fighters.

Rabat has said the most it can offer as a political solution to the dispute is autonomy. The Polisario and Algeria reject this and say they want a referendum, with independence for Western Sahara as one of the options.