See also:
» 06.03.2013 - Morocco denies entry to EU delegation
» 04.06.2010 - Morocco stalls EU-Sahara fisheries examination
» 17.05.2010 - PR company takes honour for Western Sahara "success"
» 13.05.2010 - Western Sahara "not part of EFTA-Morocco free trade"
» 14.04.2010 - Sahrawis fed up with UN chief
» 11.02.2010 - Morocco-Polisario revive talks
» 18.12.2009 - Sahara activist allowed back home
» 11.12.2009 - UN chief intevening in Saharawi activist cause

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Western Sahara | Morocco

Insecurity over Spanish position in Sahara conflict

afrol News, 3 May - Spain, the ex-colonial power in Western Sahara, traditionally has been an ally of the Polisario independence fighters and had strained relations with Morocco. The new socialist government however has promised to improve relations with Morocco and is causing confusion in Parliament and in the UN regarding Spain's view. The opposition now demands a clarification.

The Spanish conservative Popular Party, in power until last month, has demanded that new Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos enlightens the Parliament on the government's policy regarding the Western Sahara conflict. Confusing messages indeed had been sent out from the Spanish executive during the last month.

In a surprising move, Spain's new Prime Minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, directed his first foreign trip to the country's southern neighbour, Morocco, which is also the occupying power of Spain's former colony Western Sahara. During cordial talks with Moroccan king Mohammed VI, Prime Minister Zapatero promised that the ice age in the diplomacy between Madrid and Rabat had come to an end.

On his second trip abroad, which also took him to Paris, Mr Zapatero continued promising improved relations also with Spain's northern neighbour. The French government, Morocco's main ally in the Sahara conflict, was eager to join forces. Prime Minister Zapatero announced that the two countries were to cooperate on unlocking the Western Sahara conflict "within six months."

The new alliance to sort out the Western Sahara conflict caused some disbelief in Spain, the Saharawi and in the UN. The UN Security Council, where both Spain and France currently are seated, only last week unanimously agreed to stick to its current peace plan - the Baker plan - which has been reluctantly approved by Polisario but rejected by Morocco. On 29 March, both France and Spain had agreed that the Baker Plan was "an optimum political solution on the basis of agreement between the two parties."

The Spanish opposition thus today demanded to know whether Foreign Minister Moratinos still would stick to the Baker Plan or if he was siding with the Moroccan government, which rejects the Plan. The Popular Party is supported by a large number of smaller parties, including the far left and nationalist parties in the Basque province and the Canary Islands, which the socialist minority government needs support from.

The Zapatero government cannot expect much support for a pro-Moroccan policy among the Parliament's smaller parties and among the Spanish population, which is constantly demonstrating its solidary with the Saharawi refugees and cause. After growing critiques, a milder approach has been noted from Foreign Minister Moratinos lately.

Minister Moratinos is currently visiting Algeria, Polisario's closest ally and host. According to the Algerian press agency APS, the Spanish top diplomat in Algiers was cautious to assure his hosts that Spain had not shifted sides. Mr Moratinos confirmed that the Spanish government indeed was "satisfied" with the UN's unanimous reaffirmation of the Baker peace plan.

Speaking to the press at Algiers international airport, Mr Moratinos said that Thursday's UN Security Council resolution, reaffirming the Baker Plan, constituted "an engagement of the international community and an appeal to all the affected parties to engage in a positive manner and deploy their efforts to search for a definite solution of the Western Sahara conflict."

- Spain will stay among the folder of the United Nations to encourage the dialogue between the affected parties, said the Minister. His answer surely will not comfort the Saharawis, who will be keeping a close eye on the practical policies originating from Madrid in the nearest future.

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