Thursday, September 28

“We feel betrayed by the Spanish Government”

The government of Pedro Sanchez erased last week with a stroke of the pen decades of neutrality in the conflict in Western Sahara, the colony that Spain administered for more than a century. It went from supporting a “mutually acceptable” solution and by way of self-determination referendum proposed by the UN for the sahrawis and its territory — one of the few that remain to be formally decolonized — to adopt the position of Morocco. Autonomy within the Alaouite Kingdom, the same that the Biden Administration defends. All in exchange for an unwritten commitment to stability in the relationship with Rabat.

Sidi Omarthe representative of the Polisario Front at the UN and also his coordinator before the Minurso (the mission created by the body to celebrate the referendum and maintain a peace that flew a few months ago), has lived in Levante for more than a decade. She is doctor of conflict resolution and regular professor in the postgraduate courses of Jaume I in Castelló. Attend to this diary in writing.

How has the Polisario Front received Spain’s support for the Moroccan autonomy plan for Western Sahara?

The Polisario Front and the authorities of the Saharawi Republic (SADR) have issued a statement in which they emphasize that the position expressed by the current Spanish Government lacks credibility, seriousness, responsibility and realism, since it constitutes a dangerous deviation that violates legality international community, supports the occupation and encourages aggression and the policy of faits accomplis. The statement also underlines that the change announced by the Spanish government is the result of intense months of Moroccan blackmail. This new position goes against the legal, historical and moral responsibilities of Spain as a former colonial power. It should be remembered that the order issued by the National Court in July 2014, which states that Spain de jure, although not de facto, affirms that it continues to be the administering power of Western Sahara, and as such, until the decolonization period ends. , has the obligations set forth in articles 73 and 74 of the Charter of the United Nations.

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Do you feel betrayed by Spain?

Unfortunately, we do feel betrayed once again by a Spanish government that, since taking power, has not stopped declaring its support for a solution based on UN resolutions. So while our people hoped that Spain would correct its great mistake by handing over the territory to Morocco and Mauritania in 1975 within the framework of the infamous Madrid agreements, we see that same government declaring its support for the Moroccan expansionist project. It is a clear example of the lack of coherence between what this Government says with great fanfare and what it actually does with respect to the issue of Western Sahara.

The announcement comes after months of negotiations between Madrid and Rabat. Did Spain inform you in advance of the decision it was about to adopt?

I am not aware that Spain has informed the Polisario Front and the SADR authorities about their unfortunate decision. We know very well that Morocco has been using all means to pressure and blackmail Spain for a long time with regard to Ceuta and Melilla, immigration, terrorism and obviously the issue of Western Sahara. However, nobody understands that Spain has yielded so easily to Moroccan pressure and reached this very unfortunate turn in its foreign policy regarding Western Sahara, which has a lot of support and solidarity among the Spanish.

Many observers are perplexed by the decision and, particularly, by the timing at which it comes, in the midst of an energy crisis and with the war in Ukraine raging. What compensation has Morocco offered to Spain?

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We do not know exactly what the compensation has been for the Moroccan regime to agree to “normalize” its relations with Spain and to stop blackmailing it from time to time. The truth is that the Spanish Government has abandoned its “positive neutrality” and, with it, the position that successive Spanish governments have maintained. And the question is, in exchange for what? Whatever the motives behind this unfortunate turnaround, the new Spanish position only serves to embolden Morocco to persist in its policy of fait accompli and its illegal occupation of part of Western Sahara. Undoubtedly, this position would seriously undermine the credibility of Spain and, consequently, its possible role in the peace process in Western Sahara.

Algeria has withdrawn its ambassador from Madrid. How can the change in position affect the relationship between Spain and Algeria? Do you think that Algiers could restrict the gas supply?

The decision taken by Algeria is a sovereign decision and falls within the framework of its bilateral relations with Spain, and therefore I have no comment to make in this regard.

They are left alone, after the US and Spain have given them back. Is there any possibility that the Polisario contemplates the autonomy proposed by Morocco?

The Polisario Front, the only legitimate representative of the Saharawi people, is not left alone. The positions of these countries are well known, as well as the role that each of them has played in the conflict in Western Sahara. Our cause is just, and, above all, we count on the unwavering determination of our people to achieve their freedom and independence. As far as the Moroccan proposal is concerned, the Polisario Front will never contemplate it because it presupposes that the occupying state exercises sovereignty over our territory, which has no basis. In addition, what Morocco intends with this illegal proposal is precisely to determine in advance the final status of the territory and, consequently, to exercise the right to decide on this fundamental issue instead of the Saharawi people, which is absolutely unacceptable.

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What will be your next steps?

We know that the occupying state of Morocco has never had any political will to reach a peaceful and lasting solution to the conflict in accordance with the principles of international law. The only solution that Morocco is looking for is the continued lack of resolution of the conflict in the hope that time will serve to consolidate its policy of faits accomplis. Hence, as regards the UN “peace process”, Morocco is only interested in the “process”, not in peace. Our people have made many concessions over the last decades, but under the leadership of the Polisario Front they have never it will accept the policy of faits accomplis of the occupying State and will continue its struggle by all legitimate means to be able to exercise its non-negotiable right to self-determination and independence.

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