sexta-feira, 24 de abril de 2009

"Everyone knows that both countries [Spain and France] are sympathetic to the Moroccan proposal of autonomy," the minister went on to say.

Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs assumes Spanish and France support for autonomy plan


The Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Morocco, Taib Fassi Fihri, claimed in a press conference with Arabic media outlets that Spain and France back the autonomy plan for Western Sahara that the Kingdom has proposed as a solution to the 30-year-old conflict between it and the Polisario Front.

Fassi Fihri explained that the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU), which includes the Kingdom of Morocco, Mauritania, Algeria, Lybia and Tunisia, is attempting to gain the support of France and Spain to reopen conversations and move forward with "a solution to the problem of the Moroccan Sahara."
The Moroccan minister’s statements were made in response to those that had been expressed in a separate press conference by Miguel Angel Moratinos, the Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs. The Spanish minister had stated that the issue of the Western Saharan was not discussed during the 5+5 Forum, because it was not the appropriate environment to do so.

Moratinos also assured that all of the participating countries support the "efforts of the United Nations and the current personal representative of the UN Secretary General."

Both ministers were speaking before the second day of the 5+5 Forum, which brought together ministers of Foreign Affairs or other representatives from ten countries of the western Mediterranean region: Spain, France, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia.

This seventh meeting of the 5+5 Forum, established in 1990 to promote flexible dialogue between the participants, was co-chaired by Morocco and Spain and was held in the Palace of Congresses in Cordoba, Spain.

Come to the table

Fassi Fihri’s personal opinions seem to show his contempt for his Spanish counterpart’s support for the UN’s efforts. The minister of the Moroccan Kingdom maintained that to resolve the contentious Saharan issues, "it is not important to consider the 1970s as a reference point," but to consider a path based on autonomy.

The Moroccan minister insisted that his country would look for the consensus of Algeria and the Polisario Front, who "can take advantage of this opportunity to support a democratic solution for the people."

Just a few days earlier, in the Secretary General’s April 13 report on the Western Sahara and MINURSO’s mission, Ban Ki Moon recommended "that the Security Council reiterate its call upon the parties, Morocco and the Polisario Front, to negotiate in good faith, without an preconditions, and to show political will to enter into substantive discussions and ensure the success of the negotiations."

Fassi Fihri’s comments made clear the preconditions and the lack of political will of the Morocco.

Your rules or mine?

The minister of the Kingdom of Morocco instead insisted that "autonomy is the answer that respects international law, and even more importantly, gives the people what they want, that is, freedom of expression and freedom to reside in a democratic territory, and autonomy is the solution for all of that."

In UN Security Council Resolution 690 (1991), which established the United Nations Mission for a Referendum in the Western Sahara (MINURSO), the Security Council expressed its "full support for the efforts of the Secretary-General for the organization and the supervision, by the United Nations in cooperation with the Organization of African Unity, of a referendum for self-determination of the people of the Western Sahara."

The referendum to which the Security Council members refer is one that must embody the principles of decolonization and self-determination as outlined in the UN Charter. In other words, under international law, such a referendum must offer previously-colonized people at least three options: independence, autonomy or integration within another country.

Even if the Security Council has lost the political will to enforce UN policy since 1991, what was international law then is still international law now. Therefore, Fassi Fihri’s words fly in the face of true UN policy and international legality.

Furthermore, it is questionable whether an autonomous Western Sahara would provide the Saharawi people with "freedom of expression and freedom to reside in a democratic territory."

In its 2008 report on the human rights situations in Moroccan-occupied territories of the Western Sahara and the Saharawi refugee camps, Human Rights Watch investigated "the right of persons to speak, assemble, and associate on behalf of the self-determination for the Saharawi people and on behalf of their human rights."

Those investigations found that "Moroccan authorities repress this right through laws penalizing affronts to Morocco’s ‘territorial integrity,’ through arbitrary arrests, unfair trials, restrictions on associations and assemblies, and through police violence and harassment that goes unpunished."

Such realities in present-day Western Sahara do not bode well for the establishment of a free and democratic autonomous region of the Kingdom of Morocco in the future.

Let them eat cake

In classic Marie-Antoinette fashion, Fassi Fihri showed his disrespect for the will of the people, and expressed the general policy of the Kingdom of Morocco towards the conflict in the Western Sahara, as well as towards democracy within its own borders.

The idea, as he emphasized, is to be able to "resolve the issue from above so as to not be held hostage by this problem when it comes times to reaffirm bilateral relations with Algeria."

According to UN General Assembly Resolution 1514 (XV) of 1960, in non-self-governing territories, of which the Western Sahara is one, "immediate steps shall be taken…to transfer all powers to the people of those territories, without an conditions or reservations, in accordance with their freely expressed will and desire."

In other words, despite the personal opinions expressed in this press conference by Fassi Fihri, the Saharawi people of the Western Sahara must be the ones who determine the future of the territory.

Let’s get together

In the same press conference, the Moroccan minister insisted that a resolution based on autonomy would ensure a "democratic solution for the people, and above all, support stability in the Maghreb and offer opportunities for cooperation on the regional and international scale."

Fassiri Fihri claimed that the borders between the Kingdom of Morocco and Algeria – which have been shut off since 1991 – "are kept closed by Algeria," but that the resolution of the Western Saharan conflict would help to "normalize relations between the two" and help move towards Maghreb integration."

All of the minister’s comments on regional and international integration were made in spite of the fact that the Kingdom of Morocco is the only African nation that is not a member of the African Union, from which it withdrew in 1984, when the Polisario Front was admitted as the representative government of the Saharawi people.

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