Morocco continues its tireless diplomatic work to continue obtaining support for its plan to resolve the Saharawi conflict. The Alawi kingdom has received important international support for its proposal, which envisages broad autonomy for the territory under Moroccan sovereignty, respecting the postulates of the United Nations. These include the United States, the United Arab Emirates, Germany and the former Spanish colonial power.
However, the North African state continues to demand the support of other important actors, such as France, which plays an important diplomatic role in this issue. In this regard, the head of the Moroccan government, Aziz Akhannouch, sent clear messages to the French nation to take a position on the Moroccan Sahara issue.
A forthcoming official visit of President Emmanuel Macron to Rabat is expected, and in view of this expected visit, the Saharawi issue is beginning to be raised in order to bring some political pressure to bear on France. Aziz Akhannouch went so far as to point out that "the time has come to get out of this situation".
France is in a difficult position because it is caught in the crossfire between Morocco, which is demanding a solution for the Sahara that favours its position, and Algeria, a major political rival of the Moroccan kingdom and which supports the Polisario Front, another declared enemy of Morocco, which advocates holding a referendum on independence for the Sahrawi population that enjoys less support on the international stage. The French state wants to maintain good relations with its two Maghreb neighbours, but their positions are so opposed that it is difficult to be in a middle or grey equidistant zone between the two. Especially considering that in August 2021 the Algerian state broke off relations with Morocco under accusations of political interference in its internal affairs.
In an interview with the French newspaper L'Opinion, Aziz Akhannouch considered that "there are important developments in the Sahara issue following the recognition of Morocco's sovereignty over the Southern Provinces by the major powers", and stressed that "Paris should not be a mere observer".
The head of the Moroccan government called on France to abandon its "observer" status on the question of Western Sahara, affirming that the Republic should follow the "major developments" of the case.
There are important mutual interests, which, in any case, are not threatened now, such as the economic question. Aziz Akhannouch explained that the economic relationship between the two countries "is not affected by the turmoil" and thus reassured French investors.
"Our economic relationship with France must develop", said the Moroccan Prime Minister, adding that French investments in Morocco have always been free and welcome, obviously, without any restrictions.
The Western Sahara issue has seen important developments for Morocco in recent times, especially after the last US administration of Donald Trump recognised the Moroccan sovereignty of the Sahara in December 2020, and Rabat now expects Paris to clearly recognise its sovereignty over Western Sahara, following in the footsteps of, for example, Spain. The Spanish government of Pedro Sánchez recognised the Moroccan proposal as the "most serious, credible and realistic" way to resolve the Sahara issue. A political move that served to fully re-establish relations between the European country and the North African kingdom after the diplomatic crisis caused by the reception of Brahim Ghali, leader of the Polisario Front, on Spanish territory to be treated for a respiratory ailment and the subsequent Moroccan complaint about the lack of cooperation and information from a country considered an ally like Spain.
Now, President Emanuel Macron is expected to make a state visit to Morocco in February or March this year and the matter could be further clarified. It would be Macron's first visit to Morocco since his last investiture as President of the French Republic, and he is expected to meet with King Mohammed VI. By the time this summit takes place, the issue of Western Sahara is likely to be on the table.
Hisham Moatadid, an international relations and security expert based in Canada, explained that the Moroccan request is in line with international developments in the Saharawi dossier, because France has a political responsibility that it was supposed to have towards Morocco in terms of its support in this conflict before the great powers recognised its sovereignty over the so-called Southern Provinces of Morocco. Given the exceptional relations between the two countries, a frank, direct and clear position on this conflict is now required, moving away from political equidistance to satisfy all parties, as reported by Al-Arab. Moatadid also noted in The Arab Weekly that France is called upon to change its political approach in order to boost diplomatic ties with Morocco, which is a genuine strategic partner. Meanwhile, Rabat may no longer put up with ambiguous positions on an issue that is of particular relevance to the nation.
In preparation for Macron's visit, Catherine Colonna, the French Foreign Minister, confirmed from Rabat last December that "France's position on the Sahara is clear and consistent". "We support the ceasefire and the efforts of the United Nations and the UN special envoy for the Sahara in his tours, and we hope for the return of the political process for a just and realistic political solution", Colonna told the media, advocating a dialogue between the parties to reach a solution. But talks are difficult between the two warring parties, Morocco on the one hand, and the Polisario Front and Algeria on the other.
Point de presse conjoint entre M. Nasser Bourita et son homologue française, Mme Catherine Colonna. pic.twitter.com/QH8ipxITNt— Maroc Diplomatie ?? (@MarocDiplomatie) December 16, 2022
For his part, Nasser Bourita, Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, said, during the meeting in the capital of the North African kingdom with his French counterpart, that the time has come to make clear decisions and pointed out that "during the last three years there has been a remarkable development under the leadership of King Mohammed VI in the positions of several countries that are politically and geographically close to France". "Paris is fully aware of the importance of the problem of the Moroccan Sahara for the Moroccans", he added.