First foreign diplomatic post opens in western Sahara

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Comoros opened a consulate Wednesday in Western Sahara, the first foreign diplomatic post to open in the Moroccan-controlled part of the former Spanish territory, an official said.

For Rabat, the tiny African island nation inaugurating an office in the city of Laayoune represented “a supreme expression” of Moroccan claims to Western Sahara, a Moroccan diplomatic source told AFP.

The kingdom maintains that Western Sahara, mostly under Morocco’s control, is an integral part of its territory. The Polisario Front campaigns for its independence.

The Gambia also plans to open a consulate in the Western Saharan port city of Dakhla, according to Moroccan state news agency MAP.

The opening “will take place as soon as possible,” Gambian Foreign Minister Mamadou Tangara said at a recent Organization of Islamic Cooperation meeting in Rabat, according to MAP.

The United Nations refers to the vast desert territory as a non-self-governing territory and the international community has long advocated a referendum to decide its status.

The Polisario Front, an Algeria-backed independence movement, insists on a referendum on full independence, while Morocco has instead offered autonomy.

After a long break, a UN-led dialogue between Morocco, the Polisario Front, Algeria, and Mauritania resumed in Switzerland in December 2018, followed by a second round in March, but no breakthrough was made.

Determined to “protect its supreme interests”, Morocco is preparing laws establishing jurisdiction over territorial waters stretching “from Tangiers to Lagouira” on the border with Mauritania, according to MAP.

Polisario supporters claim that 92 percent of Moroccan fishing is done in “pillaged” Western Saharan waters.

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