Belgium's support for Morocco's Sahara initiative deepens bilateral relations

Belgian authorities reaffirm their support for Morocco's autonomy proposal during a trip to the Kingdom 

El primer ministro de Bélgica, Alexander De Croo, y el primer ministro de Marruecos, Aziz Akhannouch
Prime Minister of Belgium, Alexander De Croo, and Prime Minister of Morocco, Aziz Akhannouch - PHOTO/X/@ChefGov_ma

The Prime Minister of Belgium, Alexander De Croo, reaffirmed his country's support for the autonomy proposal put forward by Morocco to resolve the conflict in Western Sahara during a recent visit to the Kingdom.

This position strengthens the partnership relations between the two countries and boosts bilateral cooperation, especially after the Moroccan King Mohammed VI's statement a few years ago in which he stressed that the Sahara issue is the lens through which Morocco looks at the world.

In October 2022, Belgium announced its support for Rabat's plan - presented in 2007 - stressing that it was a good basis for a solution acceptable to the Sahara stakeholders. 

Brussels reiterated its position following a meeting in Rabat between Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita and his Belgian counterpart, Hadja Lahbib, who underlined her country's long-standing support for the UN-driven process to reach a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution. 

Lahbib travelled to the Kingdom with the Prime Minister and other senior Belgian officials to strengthen ties in various fields. The Belgian authorities also praised the reforms undertaken by Morocco, under the leadership of King Mohammed VI, over the last twenty-five years to achieve a more open and dynamic society and economy.  

Regarding Rabat's commitment to the region, Belgium also praised the Atlantic Initiative launched by the monarch, calling it "an innovative contribution to the integration of Afro-Atlantic countries and the strengthening of cooperation with the Sahel countries", considering "the Atlantic Ocean as a link between North and South, Africa and Europe, and between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic Ocean". 

With this visit, Belgium shows that it has become aware of the importance of the Sahara question for Morocco, as have other European countries such as Spain, Germany and Austria. "Brussels has expressed its clear opinion on the question, and today in Rabat we renew this position and affirm our support for the resolutions of the United Nations and the Security Council", said De Croo, who stressed Morocco's efforts to reach a political solution that satisfies both parties to the conflict and that is just, sustainable and acceptable. "We are aware of the importance of this dossier for Morocco," he added.   

For his part, Aziz Akhannouch affirmed that "Morocco commends Belgium's alignment with a group of European countries that expressed their clear support for autonomy and their support for Morocco's efforts to resolve the conflict", stressing that "Rabat participates in all partnerships based on mutual agreement". 

According to the Moroccan Prime Minister, "the meeting expresses the strength of relations" and provides an opportunity to "advance relations between the two countries". 

"This meeting is taking place in a complex regional context that threatens security, which pushes us, together with Belgium, to strengthen bilateral cooperation in a way that serves the Euro-Mediterranean region," he explained. "This meeting is an important opportunity to build strong relations and partnerships in response to the current situation, with the capacity to face various challenges," he added.  

Akhannouch also indicated that, despite the strong cooperation in the economic field, "Belgium should strengthen investments in the Kingdom and take advantage of the important opportunities offered by Rabat in this field".   

Mohamed Al-Tayyar, a researcher in security and strategic studies, tells Al-Arab that "Belgium's position on the autonomy proposal is consistent with the nature of bilateral relations". "It is considered a frank position, Belgium has realised the great importance of the Sahara issue for Morocco and also the extent of its connection to stability and peace in the region", he stresses. 

The analyst considers that Belgium's handling of the Moroccan Sahara dossier is in line with the fundamental condition imposed by King Mohammed VI to clarify positions on the Moroccan Sahara, stressing during an important speech that this question "is the clear and simple standard by which the sincerity of friendships and the effectiveness of alliances are measured".