Thursday, 2 February 2017

Morocco makes its move

'C'est un grand jour pour le Maroc,' Rabat's Foreign Minister Salaheddine Mezouar told journalists in Addis Ababa after his country was readmitted to the African Union on 31 January. He was speaking just minutes after Morocco's King Mohammed VI had made his inaugural address to the African Union summit as the head of a member state.

Mohammed VI's 20-minute speech was placatory, with only one reference to the dispute over the claims to Western Sahara which had prompted his country to quit the AU's predecessor, the Organisation for African Unity. 'We don't want to divide the continent,' he insisted. Although Morocco had won the support of 40 member states for its readmission, there was no discussion of the implications.

Mohamed Salem Ould Salek, Foreign Minister of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, which has been locked in dispute with Morocco for four decades, called Rabat's return a 'positive step'. He believes Morocco's AU membership will compel it to recognise the SADR as an accredited nation state. So far there has been no regional thaw over the core issue: the territory's status. Algeria, South Africa and Zimbabwe still strongly back the SADR and say they will oppose any move by Morocco to downgrade its status. That could push the issue back to the United Nations, where a stalemate between Morocco and the SADR has reigned since 1991. UN Secretary General António Guterres could be the man to break the log jam.

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