High-level Panel Calls for Supporting Morocco’s Efforts to End Conflict over Sahara

A high-level panel of experts on Tuesday called on the current US administration to support Morocco’s efforts to settle the Sahara conflict through a political solution based on the autonomy plan, as the only solution to this regional dispute. The participants in this conference, organized by the US “Republic-Underground” center, also pleaded for the establishment of the US Consulate in Dakhla in order to facilitate contacts between local economic stakeholders and their US counterparts and promote investments as well as American aid dedicated to the development of the region, in accordance with the Free Trade Agreement between the United States and Morocco.
The participants also called for bringing Algeria to contribute effectively to the efforts of the United Nations aimed at reaching a political solution to the regional dispute over the Moroccan Sahara and to assume its responsibility as a real party to the conflict. Only such an approach, they said, can put an end to the suffering of the populations in the Tindouf camps, reduce security threats and enable regional integration and cooperation in the Maghreb. This meeting was marked by the participation in particular of Michael Flanagan, former US Congressman; Erik Jensen, former Head of Minurso and Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for the Sahara (1993-98); Richard Weitz, Director of the Center for Politico-Military Analysis at the Hudson Institute; Elisabeth Myers, lawyer and academic, and Nancy Huff, president of the US NGO “Teach the Children International”, as well as Ghalla Bahiya, Vice-president of the Dakhla Oued Eddahab region and Mohamed Abba, Vice-president of the Laayoune-Sakia El-Hamra region.
The participants also called for remedying the humanitarian ordeal in the Tindouf camps, in Algerian territory, and facilitating the return to the motherland of the populations held against their will in these camps. In this regard, they underlined the responsibility of the Polisario for its destabilizing and provocative actions, while underlining the role and responsibilities of Algeria as host country of the Polisario.
They also stressed the importance of the strengthening of Morocco-US-Africa triangular cooperation as an effective tool to counter competition from the great powers on the continent, while recommending that the American administration work with Morocco as a moderate and progressive voice in North and West Africa to face urgent regional crises, particularly in Libya and the Sahel. In their speeches, the participants in this conference recommended to increase the aid and the American investments towards the Sahara region so as to support the social and economic development of the local population. They also underlined the need for an active action to support Morocco’s efforts to face threats to its national security and stability, as well as those facing the region. In an intervention read on his behalf on this occasion, Eric Jensen said that the US Proclamation on the Moroccan Sahara “inevitably gives an impetus” to resolve the regional dispute over the Sahara which has lasted too long, by bringing “all the parties concerned to face reality”. According to him, “it is only in a spirit of realism and compromise”, and with the contribution of the United States, that Morocco, Algeria and the Polisario will manage to peacefully resolve this conflict which continues to pose a threat to regional peace and security and a costly obstacle to regional cooperation and development in the Maghreb. For his part, Michael Flanagan said that the US proclamation on the Sahara is only the result of the policies of the former US administrations on the Sahara issue, recalling that the Moroccan autonomy proposal has been described many times as serious and credible by the United States. In this regard, he called on Joe Biden’s administration to continue US support for Morocco, a longtime US ally, in its efforts to resolve this regional dispute. Richard Weitz, for his part, stressed the role of Morocco as a major ally of the United States in the fight against terrorism, particularly in North and West Africa, noting that security and military cooperation between Rabat and Washington remains “extremely important”. In this regard, he said that the Biden administration would benefit from strengthening and promoting security and military cooperation with the Kingdom, given Morocco’s strategic role in this part of the continent.
For her part, Elisabeth Myers noted that the American Proclamation on the Sahara constitutes “an evolution” of American policy on the issue and a recognition that the autonomy plan is the path to follow for the resolution of this conflict. Stressing that Morocco represents a strategic ally for the United States, she said that the current American administration should continue to support diplomatic efforts on this issue, but also in the region and at the multilateral level. For their part, the vice-presidents of the two regions of the Sahara, Ghalla Bahiya and Mohamed Abba, expressed the wish that the American administration continue to support the sovereignty of Morocco over its Sahara, while reiterating the call for a political solution on the basis of the autonomy proposal. They also called for fostering investment and US aid for the development of the Sahara region, and for finding a solution to the dire humanitarian situation in the Tindouf camps.