Morocco lashes out at Algeria’s campaign to dispute Morocco’s sovereignty over the Sahara
Morocco-Algeria, Politics, 9/27/2004
Morocco has lashed out at Algeria’s campaign to dispute the Kingdom’s sovereignty over its southern provinces known as the Sahara, in a memorandum published Sunday.
“Algeria has since 1973 worked to systematically hamper the completion of the Kingdom territorial integrity,” stressed the memorandum addressed by Morocco to the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan.
The involvement of Algeria in the Sahara issue has been multiform and varied ranging from military engagement to breaching the international humanitarian right, as well as extending financial and logistic support and mobilising diplomatic backing, said the memorandum stressing that the presentations officially made by Algeria at the United nations show that this country presents itself, sometimes, as a “concerned party”, and other times, as “important actor”, or still as a “party taking part” in the settlement of the conflict.
Reaffirming that its status vis-a-vis the Sahara is not that of a foreign State or an “occupying power” as it was stated by the Algerian president in his letter addressed to the UN secretary General, Morocco recalled it faithfully participated in the carrying out of the settlement Plan proposed in 1991 by the United nations to resolve the dispute over the Sahara.
However, the implementation of the Plan was stuck by hindrances systematically put by the Polisario to thwart the identification process, underscored the memorandum adding that Morocco spared no efforts to support the UN Secretary General in his quest for a political and mutually acceptable solution.
Here follows the full text of the clarification memorandum which has to be considered as an official document of the Security Council:
Memorandum of the Kingdom of Morocco on the regional dispute on the Sahara
September 24, 2004
By adopting, on April 29, 2004, its resolution 1541, the Security Council reaffirmed its strong support to the efforts of the Secretary General and of his personal envoy to reach a political solution to the dispute over the Sahara, which is acceptable to all the parties and called on the latter to cooperate, jointly with the nations of the region, for the success of these efforts.
This goal was clearly reaffirmed in the letter addressed to the Security Council Chairman, on June 11th, 2004, by the UN secretary General wherein the latter assigned his special representative, Mr Alvaro De Soto, the mandate to “continue to work with the parties and the neighbouring countries to seek a political, just, lasting and mutually acceptable solution”.
Unfortunately, Since then, some parties to the dispute engaged in a surprising diplomatic campaign accompanied by particular comments of a new kind, aiming, it seems, at delaying further a political, consensual and lasting solution.
Not willing to engage in any controversy, the Kingdom of Morocco is keen on clarifying its position over these recent developments.
The Kingdom confines in reminding historical data, verified facts and recorded positions. It has also to reiterate its commitment for a peaceful, lasting solution in conformity with international legality to settle this issue that remains for all the Moroccan people a question of completing its territorial integrity.
The comments of the Kingdom of Morocco deal particularly with the four following aspects:
*The clarification of the status of Morocco vis-ą-vis the Sahara;
*The evolution of the issue at the United Nations;
*The responsibility of Algeria in the conflict;
*The commitment of Morocco for a political, lasting solution to the dispute;
A- Clarification of the status of Morocco vis-a-vis the Sahara
1-The status of Morocco vis-ą-vis the Sahara is not that of a foreign State or an “occupying power” as it was stated by the Algerian president in his letter addressed to the UN secretary General and published on August 18th as an official document of the general Assembly (A/58/873) and of the Security Council (S/2004/651).
By describing Morocco as an “occupying power”, Algeria neither makes much of the reality of the Sahara issue, nor of the definition of the notion of “occupying power” as it is set in international law whether conventional or customary.
2-The existence of this dispute was confirmed by the International Court of Justice in its judgement of May 22nd, 1975, which settled an issue prior to the advisory opinion over the Western Sahara. For its part, the Security Council, after the announcement of the Green March by His Majesty the late King Hassan II, on October 16th 1975, referred, in its resolutions 377 of October 22nd and 380 of November 6th 1975, to “negotiations concerned and interested parties could undertake pursuant to article 33 of the Charter”, to lastingly settle the issue, as was the case, earlier, with all the other territories of Southern Morocco occupied by Spain.
3-Indeed, the retrieval by Morocco of its independence in 1956, did not materialize by the immediate recovery of the whole of its national territory. Having been subject to a triple colonisation, French in the central part, and Spanish in the North and South of the country, in addition to an international administration over the city of Tangier, The Kingdom had to negotiate by stages the return of the different parts of its national territory fully conforming, by the way, to the principles and objectives of the UN Charter.
Keen on peacefully settling the colonial litigation which opposed it to Spain, Morocco privileged negotiation means, which enabled the reintegration, within the Kingdom, of the regions of Tarfaya and Sidi Ifni, successively in 1958 and 1969.
4-However, It took up to 1975 to Spain to withdraw from the Sahara territory. Indeed, on November 11th, 1975, the negotiations that brought together in Madrid the administring power Spain, Morocco and Mauritania, resulted the following November 14th in the signing of the Madrid accord that was duly noted by the UN General Assembly in its resolution 3458/B of December 11th, 1975.
5-After Spain, on February 26th 1976, then Mauritania, on August 19th 1979, renounced all their responsibilities, Morocco fully administered the Sahara as an integral part of its territory.
6-In the presence of the persisting regional dispute over the Sahara, the Secretary General exerted efforts to find a political solution mutually acceptable. Thus in his report of April 24th 2001, he said he was convinced “that we are now better off so as to determine if the Moroccan government, as an administrative power in the Western Sahara, is ready to offer to all the inhabitants and former inhabitants of the territory, or to back, a transfer of responsibility in some fields that has to be authentic, important and in line with international standards”.
It appeared, in this way, that Morocco, exerting in all legality the authority over the territory is, consequently, entitled to transfer some power to bodies democratically elected by all the concerned population, with the aim to settle in a definitive way the regional dispute over the Sahara.
7- Considering these data irrefutable, the fact for Algeria to describe Morocco as “an occupying power” is completely erroneous and unsuitable. Moreover, its evocation in this case is contrary to international conventional and customary law.
8- Indeed, the concept of “occupying power”, defined by the 1907 regulation of the Hague and the fourth Geneva convention of August 12th 1949, as well as by customary law, concerns a State that partially or totally occupies the territory of another State and that benefits from competences linked to the subsistence and the security of its troops.
Now, this concept has no relation to the situation of the Sahara where there is neither war on another State nor occupation of the latter’s territory.
9- In as much as the Sahara is an integral part of the Kingdom since times immemorial, the colonial parenthesis could not in any case, break ancestral allegiance of the populations of this territory to Moroccan kings.
10- In pursuing the legitimate goal of completing its territorial integrity, the Kingdom of Morocco has been keen on preserving its friendship and brotherly relations with its neighbours and partners, Algeria and Mauritania.
It is in the same spirit that the Kingdom, soundly backed by its rights and the unanimity of the Moroccan people, partook, in good faith and in a responsible way, in the initiatives of Africa, then in UN efforts to reach a lasting and sustainable solution to the conflict over the Sahara.
B- The evolution of the Sahara issue at the United Nations: from the impracticality of the settlement Plan to the search for a political and consensus-based solution
11- Morocco faithfully participated in the implementation of the settlement Plan proposed in 1991 by the United nations to resolve the dispute over the Sahara, However, the implementation of the Plan was stuck by obstacles systematically set by the Polisario to thwart the identification process. Besides, The Secretary General noted in his report of February 17th, 2000, that “after nine years, it has been impossible to integrally implement any one main provision of the settlement Plan, except for the cease-fire monitoring” this, because of “fundamental divergences of views between the parties about the interpretation to give to its main provisions (report S/2000/131 of February 17th 2000)”.
12- The Security Council had to draw consequences from this observation in its resolution 1292 of February 29th 2000, by recommending to the Secretary General to get “the parties’ opinion and, owing to existing hindrances, to consider means to reach a quick, lasting and concerted settlement to their dispute that would identify their respective rights and duties in Western Sahara”.
13- In Implementing this recommendation, Mr James Baker, personal envoy of the Secretary general, held in 2000, in London then in Berlin, a series of consultations wherein he invited the parties “to get rid of the mindset according to which the winner takes it all” and to “consider possible political solutions offering to every one of the parties a part, but not the whole of what it wants and allowing the other to do the same” (Report S/2002/467 of February 19th 2002). In presenting the draft agreement, in June 2001, the Secretary General and his personal envoy noted that the said draft “offers what could be the last chance for the coming years”, urging all the interested parties to “seize the opportunity for it serves the interests of the Western Sahara population as well as the countries of the region”.
14- The Security Council adopted this recommendation under Resolution 1359 of 29 June 2001. Therefore, it “encouraged the parties to discuss the draft Framework Agreement and to negotiate any specific changes they would like to see in this proposal, as well as to discuss any other proposal for a political solution, which may be put forward by the parties, to reach a mutually acceptable agreement.” In response to this Resolution, Morocco has accepted to negotiate on the basis of this draft Framework Agreement, with the needed flexibility, in order to settle definitely this regional conflict. Unfortunately, Algeria and the Polisario have chosen to ignore Resolution 1359 and refused the negotiation proposed by the Secretary General. Worst still, Algeria submitted on 2 November 2001 to Mr Baker in Houston a plan to split the Sahara. This proposal was naturally rejected by Morocco for both legal and political reasons (letter of Morocco 5/2002/192 on 25 February 2002).
15- Since it was impossible for the Security Council to choose between the different options submitted to it, Mr Baker proposed to the parties on January 2003, without previous consultation, his “peace Plan” wherein he endeavoured to combine between two irreconcilable approaches: the settlement Plan and draft Framework Agreement. Mr Baker reintroduced the idea of organizing a referendum as projected by the settlement Plan, combining it with a transition period that entails many dangers on the quietude of local populations, security and stability of States in the region. (see Morocco observations annexed to the Secretary General’s report s/2003/565).
c- Algeria’s responsibility in the conflict:
16- Since 1973, Algeria was keen to hamper systematically the completion of Morocco’s territorial integrity. Algeria’s involvement in the Sahara question has taken multifaceted and various forms: military engagement, financial and logistic support, mobilization, diplomatic training, breach of international humanitarian law, etc… in addition to hosting the Polisario on its territory and backing it, Algeria sponsored, in 1976, the creation of an alleged “republic” and embarked on an all-out campaign to make some countries recognize this fictitious “entity” that does not have any of the characteristics of a sovereign State.
Several countries have opted for the withdrawal of their recognition afterwards so as not to hinder the process for a peaceful settlement of the conflict within the framework of the United Nations.
17- On the other hand, Algeria’s official communication to the United Nations shows that this country presents itself sometimes as “a concerned party,” other times as an “important actor,” or as a “party” in the settlement of the dispute.
Therefore, the United Nations Secretary General and his Personal Envoy were right to address Algeria directly to urge it “take part, as a party, in these consultations (on the Framework Agreement) and to negotiate, under the auspices of the Personal Envoy, all the changes he would like to bring to the draft document for it to be acceptable” (Paragraph 54 of report s/2001/613 of 20 June 2001).
18- Algeria’s reaction to this proposal revealed unequivocally that the country is a lot more than a mere observer of the settlement process. Indeed, Algeria’s Representative criticized the United Nations Secretary General for not being so tough because he has rejected irreverently Algeria’s objections on this same Framework Agreement” and for having ignored the viewpoint of “an important actor” (Document A/55/997 of 27 June 2001).
19- In his report of 19 February 2002, the Secretary General informed the Security Council on the visit of the Algerian president to Houstan on 2 November 2001 during which he told the United Nations Secretary General’s Personal Envoy that “Algeria and the Polisario are ready to discuss and negotiate the splitting of the territory as a political solution to the dispute over the Western Sahara.”
This initiative shows obviously Algeria’s direct involvement in the conflict and illustrates its “tutorship” on the Polisario, whereas it has announced solemnly, in this regard, “that it cannot and does not want in any case, to be a substitute” or to be a “tutor” or a “spokesperson.”
20- Later, in March 2003, Algeria commented, as a “neighbouring country and interested party, Mr Baker’s draft peace Plan.”
21- On the military level, Algeria did not hesitate to illegally deploy units of its regular army in the Sahara. Moroccan Royal Army Forces found themselves twice, in January and February 1976, in the locality of Amgala, in face of units of the Algerian regular army that was, according to the Algerian official press agency, providing Sahrawis with supplies and medicines. The units were armed with artillery and SAM6 and SAM 7 missiles.
Dozens of Algerian officers and non-commissioned officers and soldiers were captured during confrontations, but were all released and handed over to their authorities.
22- These events have led to the capture of hundreds of members of the Royal Armed Forces. The majority of them were questioned by Algerian officers and detained in Algerian prisons before being transferred, several years later, to the Polisario camps in Tindouf.
23- On the humanitarian level, it is worth recalling that Algeria, before 1996, had denied to the United Nations high Commissioner for Refugees access to the refugees camps on its territory, thereby hindering it from fully fulfilling its mission.
In addition, Algeria continues to exert a direct and strict control on the camps, in particular by monitoring and limiting the movement of populations. Consequently, it should be held responsible for the non-implementation of the convention on the refugees status of 1951, by virtue of which any contracting State (it is the case of Algeria) gives the refugees living regularly in its territory, the right to choose their place of residence in the territory and the right to move freely.”
It should also be held responsible for the maintaining in detention, on its territory and after the entering into force of the ceasefire in 1991, 412 members of the Moroccan Royal Army Forces, in blatant violation of international humanitarian law, and in disregard of repeated calls by the international community.
24- Because of its full political and diplomatic involvement in this conflict, its systematic and active participation in all negotiations under the aegis of Mr Baker, or in direct negotiations with Morocco on draft resolutions in relation to the Sahara issue within the Security Council, the General Assembly and other international organizations, in addition to several actions, reactions and proposals duly registered in the United Nations, Algeria cannot objectively pretend to act vis-ą-vis this conflict “simply as a member of the United Nations, concerned over respect of the principles of the Charter” (as mentioned by the Algerian president in the afore-mentioned letter).
25- during his interview on 19 August 2004 with the American channel PBS, Mr James Baker, clearly identified Morocco and Algeria as “the two parties” to the conflict and its “main protagonists.”
D- Morocco’s commitment for a political and final solution of the conflict
26- Morocco deems seeking a political and mutually acceptable solution, the best means for a final and viable settlement of this regional conflict.
27- The courageous and responsible proposal concerning an autonomy, that respects the national sovereignty, lies in the context of the acceptance of self-determination as a privileged means to exercise individual and collective rights of a resolved population.
28- In conclusion, The Kingdom would like to recall that:
Š The Moroccan people are concerned in the Sahara issue over the completion of their territorial integrity and the safeguard of their national unity;
Š The United Nations has clearly established the impracticality to apply the settlement Plan and has recommended the search of a compromise away from the two options in the afore-mentioned plan;
Š The autonomy status, negotiated and approved by the populations, is a political solution that is conform to international law and which offers the best prospects for a final settlement;
Š Morocco remains open to this solution that preserves its sovereignty and territorial integrity, and that allows populations to manage directly and democratically their local affairs;
Š Morocco is ready to cooperate with other parties, as well as with the Secretary General and his Special Representative to reach a solution that is accepted by all parties. To this aim, it is ready to engage, honestly and with determination, in an in-depth and constructive negotiation to contribute concretely and realistically to its success.
Š Morocco talks about the future and sincerely hopes to find in other parties the same political resolve to reach a final solution to this regional conflict.
In the pursuit of this objective, the Kingdom of Morocco hopes to rely on the good will of all those who are committed to create favourable conditions for a realistic and consensus-based solution of the Sahara conflict, a solution that enables the populations in the camps to finally join their families, and that allows Maghreb States to find unity and solidarity.
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