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Spain informed Algeria in advance of the change in its position on Western Sahara

March 21, 2022 at 4:10 pm

A Saharawi man holds up a Polisario Front flag near Moroccan soldiers guarding the wall separating the Polisario controlled Western Sahara from Morocco. [STRINGER/AFP via Getty Images]

The Spanish government informed Algeria in advance about its support for Morocco’s proposal to grant some autonomy to the Western Sahara, which enraged Algeria, one of Madrid’s main gas suppliers.

Algeria, which is considered the main supporter of the Sahrawi separatists of the Polisario Front, summoned its ambassador to Spain on Saturday, in response to Madrid’s position, which Algiers described as an “unexpected inversion”.

Spanish government sources said on Saturday that “the Spanish government has previously informed the Algerian government about the Spanish position on Western Sahara.”

The sources affirmed that “for Spain, Algeria is a strategic and reliable partner that has a priority, and we hope to maintain a privileged relationship with it.”

The change in the Spanish position will enable the normalisation of relations between Spain and Morocco after a diplomatic rift caused by Madrid’s reception of Polisario leader Brahim Ghali in April 2021 to be treated for COVID-19.

READ: Morocco sends envoy to Spain after shift in position on Western Sahara

Morocco has been in conflict with the Polisario Front 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.

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 decolonisation question of the Western Sahara,” Brahim Ghali, leader of the Polisario Front, said in a letter to the UN.