- Protesting today's South African recognition of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, the government of Morocco today recalled its Ambassador in Pretoria. The Moroccan Ministry of Foreign Affairs claims South Africa has adopted a "biased stance" over the Western Sahara conflict.
Few hours after South African Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and her Sahrawi counterpart, Mohamed Salem Ould Salek, announced the formal South African recognition of the Sahrawi Republic, Moroccan authorities announced their withdrawal of their Pretoria Ambassador.
The Sahrawi Republic, which is a full-fledged member of the African Union (AU) is made up of the exiled Sahrawi government, based in Algerian refugee camps. Morocco has occupied the Western Sahara territory since Spain withdrew from its colony in 1976. According to the UN and AU, Western Sahara thus still needs to be decolonised - from Morocco. Most AU members have recognised the Sahrawi Republic despite heavy Moroccan pressure not to do so. Morocco is not an AU member.
The Moroccan Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation this afternoon nevertheless issued a heavy-worded communiqué, condemning the South African recognition of the Sahrawi Republic. In the statement, the Moroccan government recalled "the pioneer support it has continuously provided to the legitimate struggle of the South African people for its dignity and freedom," referring to the ANC's struggle against apartheid.
After denouncing this South African treason against the earlier "brotherhood" between the two peoples, the Moroccan statement decries the "partial, stunning and ill-timed" decision by the South African government. This decision was "in contradiction with the efforts currently exerted by the UN aiming to find a just and realistic solution that is accepted by all concerned parties in this conflict," Rabat claims.
Due to South Africa's "biased stance" over the Western Sahara conflict, "Moroccan authorities have decided to recall the ambassador of His Majesty the King in Pretoria for consultation, in order to assess this decision that was made by a country that joins today a minority group of States that have adopted a similar biased stance over this issue," the statement reads.
The Moroccan Foreign Ministry further claims that the recognition of the Sahrawi Republic constitutes a "new foreign policy of the South-African government." This is however denied by earlier statements made by both South African and Sahrawi representatives. South African Minister Dlamini-Zuma today emphasised on the long history of solidarity between the two nations.
Ms Dlamini-Zuma told the press in Cape Town that the two countries had a common history with their "struggle for freedom and dignity," according to South Africa's 'News24'. This had led to the development of "brotherly ties" between the two nations, she added.
Also Yahiaoui Lamine, the Sahrawi Representative in Scandinavia, today told afrol News that today's recognition had been decided on a decade ago. Pressure from South African-aligned Arab states and the potential of using the recognition issue as a means to pressure Morocco had prevented South Africa from formally recognising the Sahrawi Republic until now, Mr Lamine said.
- We have always had a very active Representation in South Africa, Mr Lamine told afrol News. This is now to be upgraded to an Embassy. The Sahrawi Representative holds that, given the close South African-Sahrawi relations, today's move "is only a formalisation" of existing two-state relations. During international meetings in South Africa, Sahrawi representatives had always been "given full diplomatic status" also in the past, he emphasised.
This is also mirrored in the joint communiqué issued by the two Ministers in Cape Town today, saying: "In view of the long history of solidarity, mutual assistance and cooperation, which has always existed between the peoples of South Africa in their commune struggle for freedom and dignity, the Republic of South Africa and the Sahrawi Democratic Republic have decided to strengthen and reinforce their brotherly ties."
Morocco and the Sahrawi government have led a diplomatic cat-and-mouse game over the recognition issue for decades. More than 70 countries - mainly in Africa, Latin America and Asia - have recognised the Sahrawi Republic over the years, Erik Hagen of the Norwegian Western Sahara Committee told afrol News.
Many have however withdrawn their recognition after heavy diplomatic and economic pressure from Morocco. Poor West African countries as Senegal have been awarded with cooperation deals after giving their support to Morocco. Other withdrawals include India, whose last government built stronger ties with Morocco. India's current government however is reported to consider re-recognising the Sahrawi Republic.
Sahrawi representative Emhamed Khadad earlier told afrol News that his government however doubts the international legality of a decision to "nullify a recognition because a new government decides to do so." The recognition "has been done once and for all," Mr Khadad deduced.
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