C24: Vice-President of Laayoune-Sakia El Hamra Region Highlights International Momentum in Support of Autonomy Plan

The Vice President of the Region Laayoune-Sakia El Hamra, M’hamed Abba highlighted, in Castries, the international momentum of support for the autonomy plan presented in 2007 by Morocco to find a solution to the Sahara issue. “The Moroccan Sahara issue is experiencing a positive development both at the level of the United Nations and on the ground to end this regional dispute in the framework of the political process conducted under the exclusive aegis of the UN,” Abba said in a statement delivered to the members of the United Nations C24 on the occasion of the committee’s regional seminar for the Caribbean held in Castries in Saint Lucia. The autonomy plan continues to garner strong and unequivocal international support, he observed, adding that a large number of UN member states have spoken in favor of the plan, such as Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, and Romania, while the U.S. position recognizing the full sovereignty of Morocco on its southern provinces was reaffirmed. The United States’ position was reiterated by the head of the U.S. diplomacy Antony Blinken during a visit to the Kingdom on 29 and 30 March, said Abba, recalling that 25 general consultants opened in the cities of Laayoune and Dakhla. On the UN political process, the Vice President of the Region Laayoune-Sakia El Hamra noted that resolution 2602 of the Security Council reaffirmed, for the fourth consecutive time, that the roundtables are the only framework to achieve a political solution to the regional dispute over the Moroccan Sahara. For the Security Council, the roundtable process, with its four participants, Morocco, Algeria, Mauritania, and the polisario, has no goal other than to achieve a realistic, pragmatic and lasting political solution based on compromise, he said. The definition of the parameters of the political solution is supported by the pre-eminence of the autonomy plan, which is once again welcomed by the international community as “serious and credible. Morocco, Abba said, remains committed to the UN-led political process and the realistic, pragmatic, sustainable, and compromise political solution based on the Autonomy Initiative, within the framework of the Kingdom’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. Abba, who is attending this seminar at the invitation of the President of the C24 in his capacity as a democratically elected representative of the Moroccan Sahara region, also highlighted the calm and tranquility that reigns in the Southern Provinces as demonstrated by the successful conduct of the three elections held last September, the dynamics of the opening of consulates and the organization of international business fora in the region. Addressing the new development model for the Southern Provinces, launched by HM King Mohammed VI in 2015, the Vice President of the Laâyoune-Sakia El Hamra Region noted that this virtuous model, with a budget of more than $8.8 Bln, aims to transform the region into a leading national, continental and international economic hub and a gateway to Africa. “It is no coincidence if the Sahara is today at the top of the list, in terms of economic growth, thanks to the contribution of the state as the largest investor, the largest employer, and the largest contributor to GDP in the region,” he explained. This economic development is combined with a peaceful security situation that respects human rights and is in full compliance with the provisions of the Moroccan constitution and international conventions, he said. The Sahrawi populations, like all Moroccan citizens, enjoy all the rights provided for by international human rights law, Abba added, pointing out that the Kingdom is committed to making the Moroccan Sahara region a continental trading platform, in line with the aspirations and expectations of the local population. He also referred to the massive participation of the Moroccan Sahara’s population in the legislative, communal, and local elections held last September, which recorded the highest participation rate at the national level (66%). This collective support confirms the commitment of the inhabitants of the southern provinces to the territorial integrity of the Kingdom and the implementation of the new development model in the region, Abba said. “These elections are part of a free and transparent democratic exercise to elect the legitimate representatives of the population of the Moroccan Sahara to run local affairs and defend residents’ interests,” he said. For years, the elected councils in the Southern Provinces have been exclusively administered by Moroccan Saharan elected officials through democratic elections unanimously welcomed by the international community. On the situation in the camps of Tindouf (Southwestern Algeria), Abba stressed that the host country still refuses to comply with the Security Council’s repeated injunctions since 2011, calling on the country to abide by its international obligations by registering and counting the population of the camps. “As a host country, Algeria has the obligation to facilitate the protection mandate of the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), allowing it to proceed to the registration and census of these populations,” he argued, condemning the ” violation” of the rights of the populations trapped in these camps. The latest report of the UNSG published in October 2021 and Resolution 2602 recalled once again the catastrophic humanitarian situation in the camps of Tindouf where the host country has abandoned its international responsibilities to the benefit of a separatist armed group, in flagrant violation of the rules of international humanitarian law, he said. These camps “are militarized and serve as training grounds for the polisario and as detention centers,” he warned, noting that this is why access to the camps is blocked even for humanitarian agencies, which cannot enter without prior notice and surveillance. “No legal trickery or political consideration can exonerate the host country from its responsibility for the voluntary return of the population of the Tindouf camps to their motherland, Morocco,” he insisted. Referring to the wave of abductions of opponents by the polisario, the vice president of the Laayoune-Sakia El Hamra Region said that several Sahrawi NGOs have strongly condemned these “forced and arbitrary” disappearances and called for the release of detainees of conscience. Abba also strongly condemned the withdrawal of the polisario from the ceasefire and the continued restrictions it imposes on the movements of the MINURSO and on the supply of the team sites to the East of the berm as documented in the reports of the UN Secretary-General. “The UN, through the C-24, must condemn all these violations committed by the separatist armed group,” he insisted in his statement, urging member states to accelerate their support for the autonomy plan to end the suffering of the people in the Tindouf camps and ensure their dignified return to the motherland. “We Sahrawis see our future only within the framework of Morocco’s territorial integrity and national sovereignty,” Abba concluded.