Tunisia announced yesterday that it has recalled its ambassador to Morocco for consultations following Rabat doing the same the day before in response to Tunisian president Kais Saied hosting the head of the Polisario Front, a movement seeking independence for the disputed Western Sahara territory.
President Saied met with Brahim Ghali ahead of the Tokyo International Conference on African Development summit, which convened yesterday and was also hosted in the North African country. Japan pledged $30 billion in development aid to the continent.
Morocco which claims sovereignty over Western Sahara described the move by Tunis as “a grave and unprecedented act that deeply hurts the feelings of the Moroccan people.” The kingdom also accused Tunis of “unilaterally” inviting Ghali, who is also the president of the self-proclaimed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) “against the advice of Japan and in violation of preparation and established rules.”
Rabat then withdrew its ambassador to Tunis and cancelled its participation at the conference after the “hostile” and “unnecessarily provocative” act.
However, Tunisia’s Foreign Ministry responded with “surprise” at the kingdom’s decision. “Tunisia has maintained its total neutrality on the Western Sahara issue in line with international law,” it said in a statement.
“This position will not change until the concerned parties find a peaceful solution acceptable to all.”
Tunisia also defended the presence of SADR at the conference, insisting as a member state, it was invited by the African Union (AU) and has previously attended such events, alongside Morocco.
The Western Sahara has also been at the heart of the dispute between Morocco and neighbouring Algeria which supports the Polisario Front. Tunisia is said to have grown closer with Algeria upon which it relies for energy. Yesterday an article in Morocco’s North Africa Post branded Tunisia as a “vassal state” of Algeria.
Algiers severed diplomatic ties with Rabat following its normalization agreement with Israel last year as part of the US-brokered Abraham Accords. As part of the deal, Washington agreed to recognise Morocco’s claims over Western Sahara.