afrol News, 23 June - The Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohamed Benaissa, said yesterday in Rabat that Algeria was to blame for the failure to activate the Arab Maghreb Union (UMA). Algeria's support for an independent Sahrawi Republic made regional integration efforts hopeless.
Minister Benaissa told Arab broadcaster 'MBC' that no state could "overlook a problem that threatens its territorial integrity and sovereignty for the sake of reactivating a cooperation ideal or union with regional partners." While Morocco holds that Western Sahara is an integrated part of its national territory, the UN labels Western Sahara as a territory occupied by Morocco. Algeria further is the key ally of the Sahrawi independence movement, Polisario.
The Moroccan Minister however was arguing that the Sahara issue is for Moroccans a question of sovereignty and existence. He further explained that the Sahara issue is actually "a geopolitical problem" between Morocco and its neighbour, Algeria, and that Morocco had repeatedly and to no avail called "Algerian brothers to sit around a negotiations table." Algeria on the other hand favours the UN's long-standing plan of holding a referendum over the independence of the territory.
Arab Maghreb Union was established in February 1989 by Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia and was to promote political and economic integration in North Africa. The Union has however been slowly undermined and it has been impossible to organise a summit since 1994.
In fact, the Union was to have its revival summit in Algiers only two weeks ago, but this was again frustrated due to the Western Sahara conflict. What started as a reconciling offer by Libyan leader Muammar Khaddafi to mediate in the Sahara conflict ended in the announcement that Moroccan King Mohammed VI would not attend. Morocco clearly stated that it was not willing to discuss its "territorial integrity" at the summit.
The Algerian news agency APS, quoting "observers" in Algiers, said the Algerian government was not "happy about the postponement of the summit." Algeria puts all the blame on Morocco for "thwarting" the development of the Union. Observers were "surprised" to learn that "Morocco finds out that the Maghreb integration shall not progress until fundamental problems are settled."
The Arab Maghreb Union was initially envisioned by Libya' Khaddafi as a North African super-state, and expected eventually to function as a common market, built on the European Union example. But the Moroccan-Algerian conflict over Western Sahara have led serious integration seekers look for other alternatives. In 1998 even Khaddafi had enough and founded the competing Community of Sahel-Saharan States (COMESSA), which seeks to consolidate economic and commercial integration among member states.
Functioning COMESSA meanwhile has attracted 16 member countries; namely Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Chad, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Gambia, Libya, Mali, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan and Tunisia. Algeria is not a
Based on Moroccan and Algerian govts and afrol archives