The mayor of the town received the officials who came on behalf of the French Embassy in Morocco

French diplomats and military officials visit Laayoune amidst dispute over Western Sahara

PHOTO/AFP/FADEL SENNA - Un vehículo de la ONU llega a la sede de la Misión de las Naciones Unidas para el Referéndum del Sáhara Occidental (MINURSO) en El Aaiún
PHOTO/AFP/FADEL SENNA - A UN vehicle arrives at the headquarters of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) in Laayoune

The mayor of Laayoune, Moulay Hamdi Ould Errachid, received on Tuesday a delegation composed of members of the French army and several diplomats who came to the main enclave of Western Sahara on behalf of the French Embassy in Morocco, the local authorities said in an official statement posted on social networks.  

Moulay Hamdi Ould Errachid offered a few words to recall the stages of development and evolution of the capital of Western Sahara since the famous Moroccan Green March on the Saharawi territory (6 November 1975), after the departure of Spain as colonising power. All this in a good atmosphere.  

AFP/FADEL SENNA – Entorno del Sáhara Occidental
AFP/FADEL SENNA - Around Western Sahara

This visit is of great significance as it has come at a time of tension in diplomatic relations between France and Morocco, marked by disagreements over important issues such as France's high rate of refusal of Schengen visas for Moroccan citizens and, above all, the lack of French support for the Moroccan kingdom on the Western Sahara issue.  

Relations between Morocco and France have also festered recently due to criticism in France of Morocco's decision not to request aid from the European nation in the aftermath of the massive earthquake of 8 September. Morocco did request cooperation on the ground from Spain, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and the United Kingdom, but not from other countries that offered to help, such as France and the United States. King Mohammed VI justified this decision by the right of the North African country to make its own sovereign decisions and by the principle that the best aid is useful and necessary, ruling out an oversaturation of assistance, which would have harmed the good coordination of aid and emergency teams on the ground after the terrible earthquake.  

The Sahara issue is of great importance to Morocco because it has to do with its territorial integrity. The North African country claims the area as its own and proposes a broad autonomy initiative for Western Sahara under Moroccan sovereignty, respecting United Nations (UN) resolutions. This proposal is focused on developing the territory in all areas, giving the Saharawi authorities great room for manoeuvre, reserving defence and foreign policy for the Moroccan state. This initiative enjoys strong international support from countries such as the United States, the United Arab Emirates, Israel, Germany and Spain itself, which consider the Moroccan proposal to be the most realistic, serious and credible way of resolving the Saharawi dispute.  

PHOTO/AFP - Esta fotografía de archivo muestra banderas de Estados Unidos y Marruecos junto a un mapa de Marruecos autorizado por el Departamento de Estado de EE. UU. que reconoce el territorio en disputa internacional del Sáhara Occidental (con la firma del embajador de Estados Unidos en Marruecos, David T. Fischer) como parte del reino norteafricano
PHOTO/AFP - This file photo shows US and Moroccan flags next to a map of Morocco authorised by the US State Department recognising the internationally disputed territory of Western Sahara (with the signature of US Ambassador to Morocco David T. Fischer) as part of the North African kingdom

On the other side is the Polisario Front, which advocates holding a referendum on independence for the Sahrawi people, which is difficult to achieve and has less international support, including that of Algeria, Morocco's great political rival in the Maghreb.  

Statements on the Western Sahara issue are now awaited from the UN Security Council, as Brazil's presidency of the UN executive body has scheduled three meetings on this issue for the month of October. 

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