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Morocco, Algeria UN envoys exchange criticism over disputed Sahara region

June 15, 2022 at 9:48 am

UN peacekeeper of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) at the border crossing point between Morocco and Mauritania in Guerguerat located in the Western Sahara, on November 25, 2020 [FADEL SENNA/AFP via Getty Images]

Moroccan and Algerian officials at the United Nations exchanged criticism regarding the disputed Western Sahara region and the Polisario Front on Monday evening.

This came during the United Nations General Assembly Fourth Committee, also known as the Special Political and Decolonisation Committee, held in New York. The meeting lasted more than two and a half hours.

Morocco proposes expanded autonomy in the disputed region under the sovereignty of Rabat, while the Polisario Front seeks a referendum for self-determination, a proposal supported by Algeria.

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During the UN meeting, Morocco’s permanent representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Omar Hilale, said the Sahara region “was and will remain Moroccan”.

While Algeria’s permanent representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Ennadir Larbaoui, said, “the solution we propose represents the only solution for the Sahara region”, in reference to the referendum.

The Algerian ambassador accused Morocco of “seeking to incite world public opinion regarding the Sahara region and working to change the issue of ending and liquidating colonialism.”

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.

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.

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The issue of Western Sahara has caused growing tensions between Morocco and Algeria, with the latter being accused of supporting the Front’s separatist ambitions.

Morocco, which claims the Western Sahara as its own, agreed to re-establish ties with Israel in 2020, as part of the Abraham Accords, part of which included US-recognition of the kingdom’s sovereignty over the territory.

Last year Algeria severed diplomatic relations with Rabat, citing “a series of hostile attitudes and trends”. Diplomatic tensions have also emerged between Spain and Algeria, after the former shifted its position by supporting Morocco’s “autonomy plan” for Western Sahara. Algeria has recently threatened to cut its gas supplies to Spain if it re-exports them to Morocco.