Morocco resumes contact with EU after row

Sahrawi men sit on a car during 35th anniversary celebrations of their independence movement for Western Sahara from Morocco, in Tifariti, southwestern Algeria February 27, 2011. (Reuters)

Morocco said on Thursday it was resuming contacts with European Union institutions after the bloc’s senior diplomat promised to resolve a crisis triggered by a European Court ruling on a trade deal.

Morocco said last month it had suspended contact with the EU after the European Court ruled an EU farm trade accord with Rabat to be invalid, saying it should exclude the disputed territory of Western Sahara which Morocco controls.

The EU has appealed the court’s decision, which followed a suit brought by the Polisario Front, a group seeking independence for Western Sahara.

EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini made an unplanned visit to Rabat earlier this month to mend fences with the Moroccan government.

“The visit of the EU policy chief was very constructive in which many guarantees have been given that this crisis... will be solved,” the cabinet said in a statement after its weekly meeting.

Morocco has controlled most of Western Sahara since 1975 and claims sovereignty over the sparsely populated stretch of desert to its south, which has offshore fishing as well as phosphate and possibly oil reserves.

But its annexation of the region led to a rebellion by the Polisario Front backed by Morocco’s neighbor Algeria. The Front and Morocco have been at loggerheads ever since.

The Western Sahara dispute has also led to a breakdown in ties between Morocco and the United Nations. Rabat accused UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon last week of no longer being neutral on the issue, saying he used the word “occupation” to describe Morocco's presence in the region.

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:48 - GMT 06:48