Western Sahara condemns Franco-Moroccan investment plans amidst territorial dispute News
© WikiMedia (www.viajar24h.com)
Western Sahara condemns Franco-Moroccan investment plans amidst territorial dispute

The official press agency of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic released a statement Saturday condemning France’s intention to invest in the Western Sahara region through the French Development Agency (AFD). According to Western Sahara authorities, France’s plans to invest in Moroccan development projects in the disputed Sahrawi regions are considered a provocative move.

The statement comes after France’s Minister of Foreign Trade, Franck Riester, concluded a two-day visit to Morocco. With both nations being trading partners, their focus lies on enhancing collaboration in the fields of aeronautics, rail and energy. Riester confirmed this investment and cooperation, taking to X (formerly Twitter) to announce that the renewal of Franco-Moroccan relations would entail forging new connections and bridges between their private sectors. The Sahrawi people have perceived France’s political aspirations to invest in Moroccan projects in the disputed region as a hostile act, contending that France is effectively endorsing Morocco’s occupation of Western Sahara.

Central to this is the ongoing conflict and territorial dispute regarding Western Sahara, between Morocco and an Algeria-backed indigenous independence movement – the Polisario Front. Western Sahara, formerly a Spanish colony, has been under occupation by Moroccan and Mauritanian forces since 1975 following Spain’s withdrawal based on the Madrid Accords. The accords have not been recognized internationally, and since 1976, the Polisario Front claimed sovereignty over the region as the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic. Following the claim to sovereignty, Mauritania concluded a peace treaty with the Polisario Front and withdrew from the Western Sahara in 1979. Conversely, Morocco has continued its presence in the region, upholding its territorial claims over a large part of the Western Sahara region and thereby fuelling the prolonged conflict with the Polisario Front.

The situation has drawn criticism from the UN, with Morocco standing in violation of an International Court of Justice (ICJ) advisory opinion regarding the Western Sahara region, which rejected territorial and sovereignty claims. In 1991 the UN advocated a cease-fire agreement. However it has been disregarded since late 2020.

In an attempt to resolve the dispute, Western Sahara and Morocco agreed to a settlement plan, and the UN established the United Nations Mission for a Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO). The referendum was meant to finally resolve the territorial dispute between Morocco and the Polisario Front, offering two paths leading to integration into Morocco or independence of Western Sahara. Initially scheduled for 1992, concerns over the eligibility of voters from both parties have delayed the referendum, and it has yet to take place.