The King of Morocco, Mohamed VI, thanks Spain for its change of position on the Western Sahara solution and encourages other European countries to follow in its footsteps

Repercusiones de la soberanía marroquí sobre el Sáhara a nivel internacional

PHOTO/MAP - The King of Morocco, Mohamed VI, during his speech on the Feast of the Throne, 3 August 2022

Five months after the Spanish president, Pedro Sánchez, defended for the first time in Spanish history the autonomy plan proposed by Morocco to put an end to the frozen conflict in Western Sahara, the King of Morocco, Mohamed VI, has openly thanked the Spanish government for its position, thus marking a new stage in the trust between the two countries. 

Thus, in the framework of the speech on the 69th anniversary of the Revolution of the King and the People, the Moroccan monarch wanted to emphasise "the clear and responsible position of Spain, our neighbour, which is well aware of the origin and reality of this dispute". Mohammed VI then went on to demonstrate the strengthening of Rabat's commitment to Madrid, declaring that this "constructive position" is the beginning of "a new page in relations of trust and the strengthening of the quality partnership with these friendly countries".

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In this way, and along the same lines as the Alaouite king's declarations, the Spanish government's change of position opens a new stage between the two kingdoms, which promises to be the beginning of strong and consolidated diplomatic relations. This was reiterated by the Spanish government spokesperson, Isabel Rodríguez, after pointing out that Morocco is "a reliable partner" with which Spain "needs to have good relations" in areas such as immigration and the economic sector.

In the same vein, the Organisation for Spanish-Moroccan Cooperation, Tariq Ibn Ziad, declared that "the new Spanish position" recognises "the historical truth, but at the same time does justice, and therefore achieves peace. Mohammed VI's recognition of Spain's new position lays solid foundations for the full development of cultural, economic, social, political, democratic and human rights cooperation, among other aspects. 

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And if the 69th anniversary speech was characterised by anything, it was Mohammed VI's own insistence on encouraging other European countries to show their clear position on the autonomy of Western Sahara, especially in countries such as France, whose President, Emmanuel Macron, will visit Algeria on 25 August. For Morocco, the Elysée continues to maintain a very ambiguous position on the issue, as do countries such as the United Kingdom. For this reason, Mohamed VI has encouraged those countries that continue to be ambiguous about their position to follow in the footsteps of countries such as Spain, Germany, the Netherlands and Portugal, to what they consider to be "the best solution" to a conflict that has been raging for more than 40 years.

US influence on Morocco's sovereignty over Western Sahara

Morocco has also underlined the role that the United States would be playing as a partner, as well as its "immovable position" on the Western Sahara issue. At a time when Europe is once again witnessing a new armed conflict following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, North Africa and the Middle East have also been affected by a conflict that has transgressed borders and has similarly affected the way diplomacy is conducted in the region. 

As a consequence of what is known as a "butterfly effect", conflicts - even more so armed ones - have repercussions at the international level. While Russia continues to build relations with many African countries, the United States is seeing its influence in the continent, as well as in the Middle East, increasingly eroded. An example of this was seen at the UN General Assembly on 2 March this year, which called for an immediate halt to Russia's invasion. A total of 35 countries, 25 of them African, abstained, while Eritrea voted against condemnation. This scenario has shown how Russia has been able to make its way in Africa, hand in hand with China, one of its most reliable partners.

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Although Morocco also abstained from condemnation in an act that they themselves said "cannot be interpreted in any way", Rabat called for "intensified dialogue" and deplored Russia's "military escalation". All this at a time when Russia continues to strengthen its ties with Algeria, especially in the military sphere, and is gradually filling power vacuums with its paramilitary group Wagner in countries such as Mali, Burkina Faso and the Democratic Republic of Congo. 

Although it was in the latter country that US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken travelled to secure relations with Washington, the truth is that Russia also maintains an important influence in the country, as does China.

For this reason, the recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara by European countries could now play a key role in securing US influence on the continent, and thus democratic values, at a time when these are at stake. As in other conflicts, North Africa is now also a new power chessboard where, despite Morocco's renewed outreach to Algeria, the division is all too evident at a time when unity has emerged as a key element in an increasingly polarised, fragmented and divided world.

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