The Autonomy Plan: Is it the Endgame for the Moroccan Sahara?

In foreign policy, the global political system is quickly changing to tackle and resolve regional and worldwide problems, regardless of the type of conflict or negotiation process.

In foreign policy, the global political system is quickly changing to tackle and resolve regional and worldwide problems, regardless of the type of conflict or negotiation process. Autonomy often acts as a middle ground between competing requests for distinct sovereignty and a unified state, making it easier to reach a compromise. Autonomy can lay the foundation for a long-term solution by addressing the complex issue of sovereignty, which has been a major challenge in numerous conflicts.

The Moroccan autonomy initiative, introduced by the Kingdom of Morocco in 2007, presents a logical perspective that includes self-government and can be adapted to multiple situations. The international community’s support for this initiative is significant, marking a milestone for Moroccan diplomacy in addressing the long-standing case of the Moroccan Sahara conflict. This initiative illustrates Morocco’s dedication to its national interests and territorial integrity.

Thus, Morocco has proposed a comprehensive autonomy plan for the Moroccan Sahara, asserting its sovereignty to end the conflict that has persisted for over four decades. Several countries, including the United States, Germany, Arab, Africa, and Spain, consider this proposal the most sincere, credible, and practical approach to resolving the Sahrawi dispute. The kingdom has provided a detailed outline of its plans for the region.

Furthermore, The Kingdom of Morocco is currently an emerging country and a regional power. In diplomatic discussions, Morocco’s support is based on its focus on reality, fairness, and legitimacy, rather than ideology or hard power. Therefore, Moroccan decision-makers have presented six critical viewpoints on the autonomy approach to the Sahara conflict.

First, Morocco’s proposal, as directed by King Mohammed VI, has received significant international support from Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita. The plan aligns with United Nations (UN) resolutions on the Saharawi question, and the Moroccan government is dedicated to creating conditions for a process of dialogue and negotiation that will result in a mutually acceptable political solution. This is in contrast to the opposing position of the Polisario Front, which, with the support of Algeria, advocates for a referendum on independence for the Sahrawi population.

Second, This initiative is part of building a democratic and modern society based on the rule of law, individual and collective freedoms, as well as economic and social development. It promises a better future for the people of the region, puts an end to separation and exile, and promotes reconciliation.

Third, The Moroccan initiative plan, driven by a commitment to honesty, aims to create conditions for a process of dialogue and negotiation leading to a mutually acceptable political solution.

Fourth, The Moroccan autonomy plan is based on internationally recognized norms and standards, as well as relevant UN proposals and constitutional provisions in force in states geographically and culturally near Morocco.

Fifth, The precept of Moroccan Autonomy is the outcome of the serious negotiations and will be the subject of consultation in a vote of the populations concerned, under the principle of self-rule and the provisions of the United Nations Charter.

Sixth, The Kingdom of Morocco is urging all parties to take advantage of this opportunity to start a new chapter in the history of the region. It is prepared to participate in sincere and productive discussions, in line with the spirit of this initiative, and to help foster a climate of trust.

To that end, The UN Security Council has strongly urged the conflicting parties to resume negotiations and reactivate the political process after a years stalemate involving Algeria, Morocco, the Polisario, and Mauritania. If any of the contradictory parties withdraw from the negotiation process, they will face confrontation with the international community, particularly the UNSC.

Rabat claims that Algeria is attempting to drive a wedge between Morocco and the Polisario Front regarding the Sahara settlement, similar to its past endeavors. Morocco argues that Algeria is escalating tensions in the Guerguerat border zone and the Southern provinces to divert attention from its internal issues, particularly the upcoming Algerian elections. Furthermore, various European and Western human rights organizations have denounced the worsening human rights situation and the compliance with humanitarian law in the Tindouf Refugee Camp located on Algerian soil.

The Sahara conflict continues to present significant challenges to regional stability, but current diplomatic efforts show hope for settlement progress. With some unsure support from the Security Council, The UN’s envoy de Mistura has run to open some negotiation space to pursue a political resolution. To ensure that the UN envoy’s efforts to revive talks have any chance of success, the UN should engage actively and relatively impartial broker by extracting concessions from both sides to create a conducive to resuming negotiations.

The Autonomy plan launched by the Kingdom of Morocco for its Sahara issue is crucial from an international community perspective. As a first motivation step, Moroccan diplomacy could ask the UN Security Council to expedite the gathering of all conflicting parties to earnestly engage in reaching final resolutions. The plan was welcomed by the executive and the global community as a serious and credible initiative for the definitive settlement of this regional conflict within the framework of the Kingdom’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Both the Kingdom of Morocco and the United Union claim that it is too late to call Algeria to the negotiation table as a main actor since mutual trust is inadequate among the concerned parties, specifically the Polisario Front. However, both the US and France insist that diplomacy is a process of unbroken negotiations, steady coaxing, and shared conciliations if necessary. As two major powers influencing negotiation capabilities and holding veto power in the UN, Algeria, and the Polisario Front simply refused to present themselves at the negotiation sitting with no full consultation and cooperation. It is out of the question to effectively settle the regional disputes if any state chooses to only further alienate and infuriate. Given this, Morocco and the United Nations have warned Algeria and other parties to come back to the negotiation table.

Therefore, The Kingdom of Morocco, like other members of the international community, believes that the dispute over the Sahara can only be resolved through rational negotiations. The proposal of “Autonomy” it is presenting to the United Nations offers a genuine opportunity to facilitate negotiations aimed at achieving a final resolution to this long-standing dispute. This should be done within the framework of international law and based on principles outlined in the United Nations Charter.

To conclude, Morocco’s diplomacy hopes that the conflictual parties will recognize the importance and extent of this initiative, appreciate its true value, and contribute positively and constructively. The Kingdom believes that the momentum created by this initiative presents a historic opportunity to resolve this issue finally.

Jamal Laadam
Jamal Laadam
Dr. Jamal Ait Laadam, Specialist in North African and Western Sahara Issue, at Jilin University School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA).