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US reiterates support for Morocco 'autonomy plan' in Western Sahara

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken boards an aircraft as he departs Doha, Qatar at at Old Doha Airport, on 8 September 2021 [DOULIERY/POOL/AFP via Getty Images]
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken boards an aircraft on 8 September 2021 [DOULIERY/POOL/AFP via Getty Images]

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday reiterated Washington's support for Morocco's "credible and serious autonomy plan" as a "durable and realistic political solution" to solve the Western Sahara conflict.

State Department spokesperson, Ned Price, said in a statement that Blinken met on Monday with Moroccan Foreign Minister, Nasser Bourita, in Washington, D.C. and discussed a number of issues, including the Western Sahara conflict, bilateral relations as well as the continued deepening relations between Morocco and Israel.

According to the statement, Blinken and Bourita expressed strong support for the new United Nations Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General Staffan de Mistura in leading the political process for the Western Sahara.

During the meeting, Blinken hailed the upcoming first anniversary of the Joint Declaration between Morocco, Israel, and the United States on 22 December, which saw Rabat normalise ties with the occupation state in return for the US' recognition of its sovereignty over the Western Sahara.

Morocco has been in conflict with the Algeria-backed separatist Polisario group over the Western Sahara since 1975, after the Spanish occupation ended. It turned into an armed confrontation that lasted until 1991 and ended with the signing of a ceasefire agreement.

READ: Morocco buys Israel's anti-drone system to protect its airspace

Rabat insists on its right to govern the region, but proposed autonomous rule in the Western Sahara under its sovereignty, but the Polisario Front wants a referendum to let the people determine the future of the region. Algeria has been supporting the Front's proposal and hosts refugees from the region.

The 1991 ceasefire came to an end last year after Morocco resumed military operations in the El Guergarat crossing, a buffer zone between the territory claimed by the state of Morocco and the self-declared Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, which the Polisario said was a provocation.

By launching the operation, Morocco "seriously undermined not only the ceasefire and related military agreements but also any chances of achieving a peaceful and lasting solution to the decolonization question of the Western Sahara," Brahim Ghali, leader of the Polisario Front, said in a letter to the UN.

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