First Published: 2013-04-20

 

Morocco arms itself with determination against US position on Western Sahara

 

Rabat describes proposal as attempt to deform mandate of two-decade-old peacekeeping force, launches campaign in defence of kingdom's sovereignty.

 

Middle East Online

United for protection of Moroccan sovereignty

RABAT - Morocco's steadfast opposition to US-backed plans to broaden the mandate of UN peacekeepers in the disputed Western Sahara to human rights monitoring threatens to sour relations with key ally Washington.

Rabat on Monday described the proposal as an attempt to "deform" the mandate of the two-decade-old peacekeeping force, and has launched a campaign in defence of the kingdom's "sovereignty" over the territory it annexed in 1975.

Government supporters have called a protest march to the US embassy on Sunday.

The UN peacekeeping force has monitored a ceasefire in the Western Sahara between Morocco and the pro-independence Polisario Front since 1991, but it is not charged with monitoring human rights.

When its mandate comes up for renewal at the Security Council at the end of April, UN sources say Washington has drafted a resolution that will propose adding "monitoring and reporting on human rights" to its responsibilities.

The US embassy admitted on Friday that there had been some negative fallout on relations but played down its extent.

"Certainly this is a bump in the road. But I think Morocco will remain a strong ally and a partner," embassy spokesman Rodney Ford said.

In the clearest sign yet of its displeasure, Morocco cancelled annual war games with the US military, which had been due to take place throughout April and involve 1,400 US and 900 Moroccan military personnel.

Government spokesman Mustapha Khalfi summoned the foreign press on Tuesday to underline Morocco's "categorical rejection" of the "biased and unilateral initiative" to broaden the UN force's mandate.

He stopped short of naming the United States but warned the plan would have "harmful consequences for the stability of the region."

A delegation led by palace adviser and former foreign minister Tayeb Fassi Fihri has been dispatched abroad to solicit the support of key players, including Russia.

This week, nine Moroccan organisations expressed opposition to a role for the UN force, insisting human rights in the former Spanish colony "has always been at the centre of our attention."

The 1991 ceasefire left Moroccan troops in control of all the Western Sahara's main population centres with Polisario forces restricted to a strip of desert on the Algerian border.

But efforts to broker a lasting settlement have been deadlocked by Polisario's demand for Sahrawis to decide whether or not they want independence in a UN-monitored referendum.

Rabat has offered a solution based on autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty.

The impasse has stoked growing international concern amid insecurity this year in other parts of the Sahel, notably Mali where French-led troops have been fighting an Islamist insurgency.

The International Crisis Group's North Africa director, Bill Lawrence, said it was unlikely the spat would have a lasting impact on historically close ties between Washington and Rabat, despite Morocco being "very upset."

"The strategic relationship will probably trump this kerfuffle. But some things have changed. Certainly human rights is growing in importance, both domestically in Morocco and internationally," he said.

 

Saudi warplanes strike Yemen rebels in Sanaa

US-led coalition aircraft bomb Tikrit

Can Arabs form joint military force?

Sisi underscores Egypt’s rights to tap Nile water

Gulf stocks regain ground after early losses over Yemen

Heavy Saudi raids force Sanaa residents to flee

Israeli Arab MP walks for Bedouins

Kerry presses Iran on nuclear deal before deadline

Somali pirates seize Iranian fishing vessel

Borse Dubai sells big stake in London Stock Exchange

Libya rivals discuss UN-backed peace proposals

French President to join 'anti-terror' march in Tunis

Netanyahu to form Israel new government after shock victory

Turkey military responds to Kurdish attacks in southeast

Leaders see horror of air crash as investigators step up probe

Fistfight in Iraqi Kurdish parliament

Syria rebels seize ancient town of Busra Sham

UN reveals plethora of abuses against activists in Libya

IS attack kills 5 militia fighters in Libya city of Sirte

Yemen President ‘in safety’ as rebel forces advance

US considering launching air strikes on Tikrit

Yemen Huthis seizes key airbase near Aden

'Feminist' policy costing dear to Sweden

Obama says row with Netanyahu ‘substantive’

Tunisia honours victims of deadly attack on national museum

Roadside bomb kills two Egypt soldiers in restive Sinai

‘Islamic State’ woos Syria children with money: More than 400 recruited in 2015 alone

Huthi-led militia push on southern Yemen

US envoy to Libya leaves Twitter after barrage of online abuse

US provides 'eye in the sky' to support Iraq Tikrit operation

Turkey prosecutors launch probe as ruling party rift grows

German airliner crashes in southern France with 150 on board

Egypt sacks spokesman who said Shaima al-Sabbagh was too thin

At least 30 killed in central Yemen clashes

Tunisia national museum reopening delayed over security concerns

Kuwait riot police disperse small opposition protest

Netanyahu apologises to Arab Israeli voters

Libyan pro-got warplanes target weapons depot near Tripoli

Libya pro-government forces target weapons depot near Tripoli

Sultan Qabous returns to Oman after ’successful’ treatment

‘Islamic State’ claims deadly attack on security forces in south Yemen

Tunisia Prime Minister fires security chiefs after museum attack

Saudi Arabia says Iran should not get 'undeserved' nuclear deals

Syria rebel shelling kills at least 12 people in Aleppo

Advance of Huthi militia raises fears over strategic waterway