Bahrain will open a consulate in Western Sahara, Morocco said on Thursday, as the North African country steps up a diplomatic push to strengthen its position in the disputed territory.
Bahrain’s King Hamad told Moroccan King Mohamed VI of the decision to open a mission in the coastal city of Laayoune during a phone call, the Moroccan royal court said in a statement.
“The Kingdom of Bahrain is going to open a consulate general in the Moroccan city of Laayoune, a decision that will be coordinated between the foreign ministries of the two countries,” King Hamad was quoted as saying.
The official Bahrain News Agency confirmed the decision, saying King Hamad had expressed the “support and solidarity of the kingdom with Morocco in defending its sovereignty and its rights”.
Western Sahara, a vast swathe of desert on Africa’s Atlantic coast, is a disputed former Spanish colony.
Morocco controls 80 percent of the territory, including its phosphate deposits and its fishing waters.
The Algerian-backed Polisario Front, which fought a war for independence from 1975 to 1991, demands a referendum on self-determination.
Since late 2019, at least 16 countries have opened diplomatic presences in former colonial capital Laayoune and the fishing port of Dakhla, further south, as part of Morocco’s diplomatic drive.
Jordan said last week it intends to open a consulate soon.
It comes after the United Arab Emirates on November 4 became the first Arab country to open a diplomatic mission in the Moroccan-controlled part of the territory.
The Polisario Front considers the opening of the missions a “violation of international law and an attack on the legal status of Western Sahara”.
Negotiations involving Morocco, the Polisario, Algeria and Mauritania have been suspended for several months.