The Polisario Front independence movement condemned on Thursday a declaration by US President Donald Trump backing Moroccan rule over the disputed Western Sahara region.
“The Polisario and Sahrawi government condemn in the strongest terms the fact that outgoing American President Donald Trump attributes to Morocco something which does not belong” to the country, the Sahrawi information ministry said in a statement to AFP.
The Polisario Front is an Algerian-backed independence movement that holds a fifth of Western Sahara and has campaigned for a vote on self-determination through decades of war and deadlock.
The region was colonised by Spain in the 19th century and Morocco annexed it in 1975. The pro-independence Polisario Front, representing the local Sahrawi population fought Moroccan forces for years for control of the territory.
The US move seems unlikely to lead other Western states or the UN to abandon their own longstanding position calling for a referendum to resolve the dispute. The UN said its stance was unchanged.
Normalization of relation with Israeli relations
Trump, whose mandate ends in January, said Thursday that he had agreed to recognise Moroccan sovereignty over the disputed territory, while also announcing that Morocco was normalising relations with Israel.
“Trump’s decision changes nothing in legal terms over the question of Sahrawi because the international community does not recognise Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara,” the Polisario Front statement said.
“It constitutes a flagrant violation of the UN charter… and the founding principles of the African Union, and hampers the efforts of the international community in finding a peaceful solution to the conflict between the Sahrawi Republic and the Kingdom of Morocco,” it added.
A spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday said the UN chief believes “the solution to the question can still be found based on Security Council resolutions”.
In its statement, the Polisario urged the UN and the AU to “put pressure on the Kingdom of Morocco to put an end to its occupation of Western Sahara”.
Tensions flared again last month between Morocco and the Polisario.
A decades-old ceasefire collapsed in mid-November after Morocco said it had sent troops into no man’s land there to reopen a road to neighbouring Mauritania.
The UN-led talks between the two sides – also including Algeria and Mauritania – collapsed several months before that.