A recent research paper published by the Maghreb Studies Unit at the Emirates Policy Center predicts that Morocco would continue to make diplomatic progress on the Western Sahara issue, leading to the maturation of the autonomy proposed by Rabat and eventually making it the only option for the region.
The paper, entitled “Moving the Deadlock: Dimensions of Diplomatic Activity on the Sahara File and Prospects for a Settlement,” pointed out that the Moroccan Sahara case witnessed an active diplomatic movement ahead of the report that the Secretary-General of the United Nations will address to the Security Council by the end of next month.
While examining the diplomatic developments in the Moroccan Sahara issue, their implications and potential effects on the region, the paper notes that despite the long stagnation that the conflict, the appointment of former Italian Foreign Minister Staffan de Mistura to the position of UN envoy to the Sahara, in November 2021, represented an important turning point in this regional file.
In this regard, the paper noted that the UN envoy started his mission amid many changes, most notably the diplomatic rift between Morocco and Algeria in August 2021, Washington’s recognition of Morocco’s sovereignty over its Sahara in the context of “the new Middle Eastern equation generated by the Abraham Accords between some Arab countries and Israel,” as well as Rabat’s reconstruction of its vision for a resolution by proposing autonomy as the only realistic solution to this conflict.
The proposal received the support of several countries, especially African ones, which translated their support into opening consulates in the cities of Dakhla and Laayoune, considering the recent Spanish position in which Madrid supported the Moroccan proposal.
Regarding De Mistura’s strategy in this situation, the same document noted that it was based primarily on-site visits to the conflict area and adopting a line of workable solutions rather than clinging to the referendum solution, which seemed virtually unachievable. It also indicated that this new vision “was reflected in the recent UN Resolution No. 2654, which stipulated “to achieve a realistic, practical, lasting and acceptable political solution to this conflict.”
The official’s approach to the subject was also focused on “linking the Sahara issue to the region’s crises in their political and security aspects, and taking the issue out of its narrow regional dimension and into the Middle Eastern sphere, which is currently experiencing accelerating movement.”
Regarding the current regional stances on the Moroccan Sahara conflict, the same source referred to the Moroccan position clinging to the autonomy project, which has evolved into the actual and ideal benchmark in Rabat’s foreign policy, in exchange for Algeria adopting a hardline stance on this conflict, which led to the latter making “extensive efforts to confront diplomacy in Africa, and also tried to influence the new American position.”
Meanwhile, the Polisario Front maintains its position along the “line of separation from Morocco.”
The same source cited the success of Rabat in swaying two major nations to its advantage, namely the United States of America and Spain, as well as Germany, whose Foreign Minister expressed a position similar to the Moroccan vision during a meeting with her Moroccan counterpart in August of last year, while the French position continues to fall short of what the Kingdom hopes for.
As for Moscow, which seems closer to the Algerian position, the research paper recorded that “Morocco is keen to maintain distinguished relations with it to neutralize it in this vital file,” while being keen not to include it in the current crisis of international relations.
China usually adheres to a policy of neutrality in this conflict, as it voted in favor of the recent Security Council resolution, and maintains good relations with all parties.
According to the study, the situation in the Sahara will not change despite Rabat’s continued success in securing political and diplomatic support for its demand for autonomy.
The article predicts that “the scene of stagnation in the Sahara will continue,” with Rabat continuing to win greater support for its demand for autonomy on the political and diplomatic fronts.
Although Morocco is making more progress internationally, it was noted that the current international equation does not appear appropriate for passing the option, and the explosion of the military situation in the region does not seem to be present either. As a result, the most likely scenario is stagnation in the situation.