Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Morocco: U.S., France Voice Strong Support for Morocco's Autonomy Plan to Resolve Western Sahara Dispute

SOURCE Moroccan American Center for Policy

Echoing a recent statement by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe called Morocco's autonomy initiative for Western Sahara "the only realistic proposal" for resolving the decades-old conflict over the territory. On a trip to the region last month, Clinton said Morocco's autonomy initiative is "serious, realistic, and credible" and reaffirmed that U.S. policy "has remained constant."

The U.S. policy supporting a solution based on autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty in Western Sahara has been backed by three U.S. Administrations—Bill Clinton, George Bush, and Barack Obama—as well as bipartisan majorities in both Houses of Congress.

In Paris last week, Foreign Minister Juppe said, "We still think that the Moroccan autonomy plan, which today is the only realistic proposal on the table, forms the serious and credible basis of a solution." Juppe spoke to members of the press prior to an official visit to Morocco.

Speaking at a joint press briefing in Rabat on February 26 with Morocco's Foreign Minister Saad Dine El Otmani, Clinton said Morocco's autonomy initiative "could satisfy the aspirations of the people in the Western Sahara to run their own affairs in peace and dignity." She said the United States "continues to support efforts to find a peaceful, sustainable, mutually agreed upon solution."

Clinton and Juppe both praised Morocco's role in advancing human rights and democratic reforms in the region. Clinton said, "Morocco stands as an example of what can be achieved," citing its new Constitution, advances in women's rights and representation, transparency and accountability, protections for freedom of thought and expression, and "the Arab world's very first truth commission on human rights." Juppe commended Morocco's "vigilance in respecting human rights" and "democratic principles," calling it a model for Arab Spring reforms.

The statements come on the eve of a ninth round of informal talks on Western Sahara, hosted by the United Nations Sunday to Tuesday in Manhasset, New York. The informal talks aim to resume formal negotiations between Morocco and the Polisario Front, with the participation of Algeria and Mauritania, to end the conflict.

Next month, the renewal of MINURSO's peacekeeping mission in Western Sahara comes before the UN Security Council, of which Morocco is a non-permanent member. The Security Council, which calls Morocco's autonomy proposal "serious and credible," is expected to urge the parties to reach "a just, lasting, and mutually acceptable political solution." The only realistic path according to many in the international community, including Peter Van Walsum, former UN Personal Envoy for the territory, is negotiating on the basis of autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty.

This material is distributed by the Moroccan American Center for Policy on behalf of the Government of Morocco. Additional information is available at the Department of Justice in Washington, DC.