By: Hana Saada
Morocco eyes to trigger bilateral crises with neighboring countries, resorting to staging lies and baseless accusations. For some time, Morocco has experienced a series of diplomatic quarrels with a number of countries. First with Germany, then with Spain, and this time with Tehran, against the backdrop of the conflict in Western Sahara occupied by the kingdom since 1975.
Iran reacted to the accusations leveled to it by the Moroccan Foreign Minister in an online conversation with members of the Zionist lobby group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), during which the Head of the Moroccan diplomacy accused Iran of threatening his country’s integrity by sowing instability and supporting the Polisario Front, the only representative of the Sahrawi people.
According to media reports, the Moroccan foreign minister said, in a televised interview with the President of AIPAC – the USA, last week, that the “Polisario Front would receive arms from Iran as well as military training for its cadres,”an accusation denied, in the strongest terms, by the Islamic Republic of Iran through the voice of the for its Foreign Ministry’ spokesman, Saeed Khatibzadeh.
“As the government of Morocco is unable to settle its own regional issues, it has once again rehashed its unfounded allegations against the Islamic Republic of Iran while supporting the criminal regime of Israel,” Khatibzadeh said in a statement.
The spokesman said the baseless accusations by the Moroccan government against Iran are in line with American and Zionists schemes in the region and against those loyal to the rightful cause of Palestine.
“It is regrettable that the government of Morocco, which currently holds the presidency of the Quds Committee, deflects attention from the hot-button issue of the Muslim world, i.e., countering aggression against the Holy Quds and defending the rights of Palestinian people, at a time when the Islamic world needs unity and solidarity more than ever,” pointed out Khatibzadeh.
For the Sahrawi side, the member of the National Secretariat of the Polisario Front, for Europe and the European Union Oubi Bouchraya, dubbed Moroccan Foreign Minister’s allegations on Iranian military support to the Polisario Front as groundless.
“The international community’s rejection of the illegal declaration by former US President Donald Trump concerning the unilateral consideration of Morocco’s sovereignty over occupied Western Sahara has caused a form of hysteria in Rabat led the authorities of the kingdom and the media, to have bizarre reactions,” said Oubbi in a press statement.
“For most of the capitals in the world and international observers, these allegations are just jokes that do not impress anyone,” pointed out Oubi.
And to add: “The Polisario Front once again categorically denies these allegations and challenges the Moroccan foreign minister to give evidence that would confirm his allegations.”
It is worth recalling that these allegations have already been made in 2018 leading to severe diplomatic ties with Iran in May 2018. Morocco’s Foreign Minister has accused Algeria in an extensive interview with the French publication Jeune Afrique, of being directly involved in Iran’s support of the Polisario Front. He alleged that Algeria gave blessing, unlimited backing and operational support by offering more than a meeting venue for members of the Polisario Front and Lebanese group Hezbollah, accusations and purported support firmly denied by both Algeria and Iran.
Earlier, fresh dispute erupted between Morocco and Spain over the latter’s decision to host Western Sahara President, Ibrahim Ghali who is hospitalized at a hospital in Logroño in northern Spain, after he was infected with COVID-19.
His presence in Spain has angered Morocco which has accused the government in Madrid of endangering and sacrificing relations with Rabat.
Morocco, last month, summoned Ricardo Díez-Hochleitner, the Spanish ambassador to Rabat, to complain about Ghali’s presence in Spain.
Spain, for its part, responded by clarifying that the decision to hospitalize the Sahrawi President is humanitarian-based move.
In addition, media have announced, in recent days, that the Spanish courts have initiated proceedings against the Saharawi president for alleged “crimes against humanity”, false information, categorically, denied by the Spanish High Court.
This week, a tug of war is, again, straining relations between Madrid and Rabat, more than the tensions erupted over Spain’s decision to receive, for medical treatment, the Sahrawi President Ghali. The Moroccan Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a strongly worded statement rejecting Madrid’s response for the decision to receive Ghali.
The Moroccan ministry said that the failure of the Spanish authorities to inform their Moroccan counterparts of Ghali’s hospitalization was not a “simple omission but rather a premeditated act, a voluntary choice and a sovereign decision by Spain, of which Morocco takes full note.”
As a reaction, Spanish Foreign Minister, Arancha Gonzalez Laya, said Spain had “nothing to add to what has been said” regarding Ghali’s case.
On another level, Morocco revoked, in March, its Ambassador in Berlin, accusing Germany of a “negative stance” regarding the disputed Western Sahara territory as Berlin called for a closed-door UN Security Council meeting to debate the US decision to recognize Moroccan sovereignty over the territory, in return for the Moroccan normalization of ties with the Zionist Entity.
Morocco has agreed to a rapprochement with the Zionist Entity in return for American recognition of the kingdom’s sovereignty over a long-disputed territory, under a deal announced few months ago.
With the agreement, which has been under discussion since 2017, Morocco becomes the fourth Arab country to pledge warmer official relations with the Zionist Entity.
Western Sahara is a Non-Self-Governing Territory of the UN that lies in the Sahel region bordered by Algeria, Kingdom of Morocco, and Mauritania. This territory is home to the Sahrawis, a collective name for the indigenous peoples living in and around the region. They speak the Hassaniya dialect of Arabic. Similarly, many others also speak Spanish as a second language due to the region’s colonial past. Their 50-year dispute broke out when the territory was first occupied by Morocco since November, 1975, as thousands of Moroccan civilians, flanked by the Moroccan military, crossed into the Western Sahara in defiance of Spain, which ruled the region since 1884, a step denounced by most countries and institutions, including the International Court of Justice which stated, few days before, that there was no “legal tie of territorial sovereignty between Western Sahara and the Moroccan State”. According to Adala UK, on the 6th of November 1975, Morocco organized what it called a “Green March” to officially invade the North of Western Sahara moving 350,000 Moroccan settlers to the territory. This occupation coincided with the termination of the Spanish status as Administrative Power, creating a vacuum which imposed on the UN to assume its responsibility there.
Subsequently, the United Nations Security Council called on Morocco to withdraw from the territory; however, its effort was in vain. It was obvious that Morocco was violating not only the UN Charter’s principles, such as abstention from “the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state”, but also the African Union Constitutive Act’s sacred principle of “respect of borders existing on achievement of independence”.
The International Court of Justice’s opinion of 1975 indicated, also, that the native Sahrawi people of Western Sahara are the only sovereign power in Western Sahara. It also considered that it “has not found legal ties of such a nature as might affect the application of resolution 1514 (XV) in the decolonization of Western Sahara and, in particular, of the principle of self-determination through the free and genuine expression of the will of the peoples of the Territory.” (para. 129, 162) (Adala UK).
This status quo did not please the Sahrawi people; in response to the Moroccan occupation, they mobilized for armed struggle under the leadership of the Polisario Front, successor of the liberation movement of Seguia el-Hamra and Oued ed-Dahab of Mohammed Bassiri, created on May, 10, 1973. This Frente has been recognized by the UN General Assembly Resolution 34/37 of 1979 as the sole legitimate representative of the Saharawi people.
Years later, precisely in 1991, the warring parties concluded a ceasefire agreement, culminating in the establishment of the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), which is assuming its responsibility till nowadays.
Despite a cease-fire in 1991 that put an end to the armed combat, Western Sahara remains a disputed territory. Nowadays, Morocco controls parts of the territory. However, the United Nations refers to the Western Sahara as a non-self-governing territory and maintains a stance favoring self-determination for its people.
UN body is attaching great interests to the Sahrawi cause, expressing willingness to find a solution ensuring the self-determination of the Sahrawi people, in accordance with the relevant resolutions of the Council. Several important judicial decisions concerning Western Sahara have been issued to assure Sahrawi’s full right to self-determination. To wit; Resolution 1514 of December 14, 1960, also known as the “Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples” amplifies the anti-colonial struggles of peoples and their full sovereignty. The declaration states: “Subjection of peoples to alien subjugation, domination and exploitation constitutes a denial of fundamental human rights”.
In December 2016 the European Court of Justice affirmed that a Non-Self-Governing Territory has a separate and distinct status from that of the administering state.
On December, 23rs, 2016, UN General Assembly Resolution 71/103 stated that any economic or other activity that has a negative impact on the interests of the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories and on the exercise of their right to self-determination is contrary to the purposes and principles of the Charter” of the United Nations, referring to EU trade agreements with Morocco that includes the Sahrawi territory which has significant phosphate reserves and offshore fishing.
In 2017 the High Court stated that the territory of Western Sahara is Africa’s last colonized territory, vesting control of the natural resources of Western Sahara in the Saharawi people.
After years of war, the U.N. brokered a cease-fire in 1991 that called for a referendum on independence for Western Sahara, which is, to date, blocked by Morocco, was violated on 13 November 2020 by the Kingdom of Morocco that attacked civilians peacefully protesting in front of the illegal Guerguerat breach. Morocco, also, opened three new breaches within the Moroccan military wall in flagrant violation of the Military Agreement No. 1 signed between the Polisario Front and the Kingdom of Morocco under the auspices of the United Nations, in implementation of Security Council Resolution 690 of 1991, which provides for the organization of the referendum of self-determination for the Sahrawi people, and based on the decisions of the extraordinary session of the National Secretariat of the Polisario Front held on 07/11/2020, and the powers conferred upon him by the Basic Law of the Polisario Front and the constitution of the SADR.
Subsequently, Mr Brahim Ghali, the President of the Sahrawi Republic and Secretary General of the Polisario Front, issued a presidential decree on November 13, 2020, declaring the end of the commitment to the ceasefire, which the Moroccan occupation had undermined and the consequent resumption of armed struggle in defense of the legitimate rights of the Sahrawi people. War between the two countries remains in its heyday.
Morocco’s violation of the ceasefire in El-Guerguerat (southwest of Western Sahara) by attacking peaceful Sahrawi civilians has sparked a wave of international outrage and condemnation from a range of countries, regional and international organizations, including Algeria, UN, AU, South Africa, Germany etc, urging Morocco to stop hostilities and to comply with international law.