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US to establish consulate in Western Sahara, Morocco

David T. Fischer (L), US Ambassador to the Kingdom of Morocco, and his wife Jennifer (R) stand before a US State Department-authorised map of Morocco recognising the internationally-disputed territory of the Western Sahara (bearing a signature by Fischer) as a part of the North African kingdom, in Morocco's capital Rabat on December 12, 2020. (Photo by - / AFP) (Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images)
David T. Fischer (L), US Ambassador to the Kingdom of Morocco, and his wife Jennifer (R) stand before a US State Department-authorised map of Morocco recognising the internationally-disputed territory of the Western Sahara as a part of the North African kingdom, in Morocco's capital Rabat on December 12, 2020. [-/AFP via Getty Images]

The US announced Thursday that Washington is taking steps towards establishing a consulate in Western Sahara — a large territory in southern Morocco, Anadolu Agency reports.

"Pleased to announce the beginning of the process to establish a U.S. consulate in Western Sahara, and the inauguration of a virtual presence post effective immediately!" Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Twitter.

"We look forward to promoting economic and social development, and to engage the people of this region," Pompeo added.

The move came two weeks after President Donald Trump recognised Moroccan sovereignty over the entire Western Sahara territory in early December.

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The virtual presence post will be managed by the US Embassy in Rabat and will be "followed soon by a fully functioning consulate," he said in a State Department statement.

The secretary underlined the US will continue to support political negotiations  between Morocco and the Algeria-backed Polisario Front within the framework of Morocco's autonomy plan.

Occupied by Spain until 1975, Western Sahara has remained the subject of dispute between Morocco and the Polisario for more than four decades.

After years of conflict, the two parties signed a UN-backed ceasefire in 1991.

The Polisario, a national liberation movement that seeks to end Morocco's presence in Western Sahara, has long called for a popular referendum to decide the region's political fate.

Speaker of Algerian Parliament: 'Our stance on Western Sahara is not subject to revision or negotiation'

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