Morocco’s king has renewed Rabat’s insistence that there will be no compromise on the kingdom’s claim to sovereignty over the Western Sahara, vowing that he will offer no more than autonomy to end the four-decade deadlock over the region.
“This initiative is the maximum Morocco can offer,” Morocco’s King Mohammed said late on Friday, referring to the autonomy plan for the region.
“Its implementation depends on reaching a final political agreement under the backing of the United Nations.”
King Mohammed VI made the announcement in the territory’s main city Laayoune, to mark the 40th anniversary of the Green March day, when hundreds of thousands of Moroccan civilians marched across the border with the then Spanish colony to lay claim to the sparsely populated stretch of desert.
“Those who are waiting for any other concession on Morocco’s part are deceiving themselves. Indeed, Morocco has given all there was to give,” the king said.
‘Conflict must end’
However, the Algeria-backed Polisario Front seeks independence. A UN-brokered ceasefire between Morocco and the Polisario has held since 1991, but UN efforts remained deadlocked on the territory’s future.
UN special envoy to Western Sahara Christopher Ross has intensified visits to the region and Europe recently to facilitate negotiations without preconditions and in good faith, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement last week.
“This conflict must be brought to an end if the people of the region are to meet their shared challenges and achieve their full potential,” Ban said.
The king also vowed that revenues from the mineral-rich Western Sahara will continue to be invested locally.
He listed several projects that are due to be implemented to improve infrastructure in the territory, including a desalination plant and industrial zones.
He promised that “revenues from natural resources will continue to be invested in the region, for the benefit of the local populations and in consultation and coordination with them”.
The Polisario’s main base is in Tindouf across the border in Algeria, where tens of thousands of Sahrawi refugees also live in desert camps.
The king lashed out at Algiers for not doing more for the refugees.
“The people in Tindouf … continue to suffer from poverty, despair, deprivation and the systematic violation of their basic rights,” he said.
On Wednesday, the UN’s Ban called for negotiations in the coming months to finally settle the Western Sahara dispute.