President Trump’s has decided to recognize Morocco’s sovereignty over the disputed Western Sahara. In exchange for Morocco announced to begin normalizing ties with Israel, the United States on Thursday became the only major power with a UN veto to recognize the Moroccan sovereignty over the Western Sahara region, something that Morocco has sought for years.
This can be a turning point for Morocco which has been heavily lobbying to persuade other major powers, including the European Union, Russia and China, to recognize Morocco’s sovereignty over the Sahara.
This conflict has been a long standing issue on the agenda of UN resolutions since Spain has withdrawn from the region in 1975, and Moroccans march to claim the territory in 1976. Morocco has been proactively lately after joining the African Union, the organization they left in protest in 1984 after it recognized the Sahrawi Democratic Arab Republic as a member of the Union in 1984.
Analysts see this as a major victory and massive breakthrough for Morocco over the Polisario front and their allies, Algeria. This victory is seen to have come with a cheap pledge from Morocco to normalize ties with Israel, something Morocco’s has been secretly doing for many decades. Intissar Fakir at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace says “the Kingdom was able to extract the maximum gain from the US.”
For Morocco, the next step is to persuade the European Union and UN to recognize its sovereignty over the Western Sahara. The UN and European Union describe the Western Sahara as a “non-self-governing territory.” This is unlikely to happen due to the international nature of the conflict which is central to Algeria’s diplmatic relationships and Russia’s and China’s neutral or pro-Algeria’s leaning positions.
Analysts are turning their eyes to the position the new administration will be taking on this issue. The democratic party in Washington is known to have more favorable positions towards the Polisario front and its claims. It is unknown which position will Biden take; and it is seen to be difficult for his incoming administration to walk-way from the agreement, considering the long-standing special US relationships with Morocco. A former French ambassador to Israel, the UN and Washington, Gerard Araud tweeted: “In the small world of diplomacy, it’s a bomb. Forty years of debate erased in one tweet. What will the Biden administration do?”