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Saturday, February 04, 2023
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Nearly half of the 435-member of the U.S. House of Representatives have urged President George W. Bush to support Morocco's proposal to grant substantial autonomy to its Southern Provinces, the Sahara in a bid to solve the three-decade long dispute over the former Spanish colony.

    Describing it a "breakthrough initiative to resolve the problem once for all," 169 lawmakers, both Democrats and republicans, said the Moroccan initiative is "balanced and proposes profound autonomy for the people of Western Sahara." 

    The former Spanish colony was ceded by Spain to Morocco in 1975 under the Madrid Accords. The Polisario, an Algerian-backed separatist movement, claims the independence of this territory.


    In their letters to the U.S. president, the lawmakers deemed that "this type of autonomy arrangement has been an effective means of resolving other separatist claims."

    "This historic initiative grants profound local autonomy to the Western Sahara while recognizing Morocco’s territorial integrity," the letter said, insisting that "this compromise is a breakthrough opportunity to find an enduring political solution, and U.S. support is critical to its successful  implementation."

    The U.S. State Department had earlier this month, described as "serious and credible" Morocco's proposal.


    Dubbed "Moroccan Initiative for negotiation towards an autonomy statute for the Sahara region," Morocco's initiative is being discussed by the U.N. Security Council which will meet on Monday to adopt a resolution on the Sahara issue. 


    "The new Moroccan proposal provides a realistic framework for a negotiated solution, which is the best was to ensure a lasting peace for all parties," the lawmakers said in their letter to President Bush.

    After underling that the United States has a major national security interest in the stability and economic prosperity of North Africa, "with Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups expanding their presence into North Africa," the lawmakers voiced concern that "the failure to resolve this conflict of more than 30 years poses a danger to U.S. and regional security, while simultaneously preventing the economic integration of the Arab Maghreb Union." Known by its French acronym U.M.A. the North African regional grouping (mustering Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Mauritania) is facing  stalemate due to the Sahara dispute. Algeria, although providing political, diplomatic, logistic, financial, and military support to the Polisario separatists, has always denied any involvement in this dispute. However, as UN Secretary-General's Personal Envoy for Sahara, Peter van Walsum, recently put it, Algeria plays "a preeminent and dominant role" in the Sahara issue.

    "Alegria has in this whole dossier played an absolutely preeminent, dominant role ever since 1975," van Walsum, told the press, following the Security Council's closed hearing last Friday on the Sahara issue.

    "I have to say it would be totally dishonest if I didn’t mention that they (Algerians) played an important role" in the conflict, he said, noting that "if there is one thing I've learnt in this one year and a half (as a Personal envoy), it is not to try to formulate exactly the role of Algeria," a country that insists "it is not a part in the conflict".

    Citing the Ban Ki-moon’s, latest report on the Sahara, he called to "the parties," to enter into negotiations without preconditions to reach a just, final and mutually accepted solution.” The same call was issued  by the U.S. State Department.

    “I have unlimited faith in direct negotiations,” he said.

    In their letter to President Bush, the lawmakers emphasized that the Moroccan autonomy proposal constitutes an « historic opportunity » for the United States to help end this problem and provide a better future for the entire region.” 

    “We urge you to embrace this promising Moroccan initiative so that it receives the consideration necessary to achieve international acceptance," the letter concluded.

    Among the signatries of the letter are: Steny Hoyer, leader of the Democrats and John Boehner, leader of the Republicans.

 

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