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US State Department: Biden did not take decision on Western Sahara

May 5, 2021 at 10:45 am

This picture taken on December 12, 2020 shows (L to R) US and Moroccan flags next to a US State Department-authorised map of Morocco recognising the internationally-disputed territory of the Western Sahara [AFP via Getty Images]

The US State Department has denied reports by media close to the Royal Palace of Rabat in Morocco regarding the decision of the Joe Biden administration on the Western Sahara file. It has also dismissed the news concerning US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s announcement to his Moroccan counterpart Nasser Bourita that former US President Donald Trump’s decision would not be reversed.

A spokesperson for the US State Department confirmed on Tuesday that Biden’s administration had not taken a decision on keeping or reversing Trump’s decision to recognise Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara.

Morocco has been in conflict with the Algeria-backed separatist Polisario group over Western Sahara since 1975. This resulted in an armed confrontation lasting until 1991, ending with signing a ceasefire agreement. Rabat insists on its right to govern the region, but proposed autonomous rule in Western Sahara under its sovereignty. The 1991 ceasefire came to an end however last year, after Morocco resumed military operations in the El Guerguerat crossing.

Last week, it was reported that Blinken told Bourita that the current US administration would not revoke Trump’s recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara, at least for the present.

The spokesperson, who preferred not to be named, told the US TV channel Alhurra: “No such decision has been taken. We are currently conducting private talks with the disputing parties on the best way to push the file forward and we have nothing further to announce.”

READ: Washington confirms support for Morocco-Polisario talks

In January 2021, before formally taking office, an official in Biden’s transition team revealed that Trump’s recent decision on the Western Sahara issue was a last-minute move and is currently being reassessed.

The same official confirmed to the Washington Post that the decisions taken at that point were: “Last-minute manoeuvres, and are currently under revision. The next administration will decide on this matter taking into consideration a sole criterion, which is the national interest.”

According to the same source, these issues were taken under pressure exerted by Trump’s son-in-law and advisor, Jared Kushner, to reward countries accepting normalisation with the Israeli occupation.

Several US diplomats and politicians called on Biden to reverse Trump’s decision on Western Sahara, while agreeing that the decision constituted a blow to the constants of US foreign policy and its positions on the conflict.