Tensions rise between Morocco, Algeria over Western Sahara

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Moroccan King Mohammed VI lashed out at Algeria over the latter’s allegations of human rights abuses in the Western Sahara, prompting a response from Algiers.

Diplomatic sparring between Morocco and Algeria has reached new heights, fueled by renewed disagreements over the Western Sahara dossier.

After Moroccan King Mohammed VI’s speech Wednesday evening, Nov. 6, in which he accused “foes” of buying sentiments and opinions hostile to Morocco, Algeria’s Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal responded yesterday [Nov. 7] by saying that his country “did not want to teach any of its neighbors lessons, and only wanted to live in peace.”

“Algeria refuses to play the role of policeman in the region. It also will refrain from giving lessons to others,” Sellal added. In the speech he gave during a meeting with leaders from Adrar province in the southwest, he alluded to an intensification of the diplomatic crisis between his country and Morocco: “Algeria seeks harmony and stability. It wants to export stability to the whole region, and will offer assistance to whoever asks for help, because Algeria, as a state and people, wants to spread good and not evil.”

He pointed out that Algeria “was not touched by the Arab Spring because its people are unified and cohesive.” He also said, “It is true that the Algerian people reject exclusionary measures and oppression, but they always remain synergetic,” adding that the state “was doing all it could to combat the marginalization of others.”

King Mohammed VI harshly criticized the Algerian authorities’ stance vis-a-vis the Sahara dispute, without naming them. He also accused them of “squandering the riches and bounties of a brotherly people on an issue that did not concern them.”

In a speech he gave on the 38th anniversary of the Green March, which allowed Morocco to reclaim the southern provinces, he said, “The main reason for this unfair treatment of Morocco was due to the monies and benefits being handed out by its foes, in an attempt to buy the sentiments and opinions of some organizations that are hostile to our country.” This was a reference to human rights organizations that he said were exploiting isolated incidents to “attempt to undermine Morocco’s image or trivialize its human rights and development achievements, through the use of pre-written reports.”

The Moroccan king focused on the issue of human rights pertaining to the Sahara dispute. He clarified that there are those “who unfairly and inimically believe anyone who claims that his rights were trampled or that he was tortured, all the while not taking into account the decisions of courts of law in this regard.” He stressed that all nations refused “to expose their security and stability to dangers,” and that human rights were irreconcilable with violence, chaos and the terrorizing of citizens.

King Mohammed VI said, “The source of the current misunderstanding between Morocco and some of its strategic partners, concerning the issue of human rights, necessitated the posing of one question: Is there a crisis of trust? Or is it a matter governed by other factors?”

He explained, “Some countries contented themselves with maintaining staff on the ground to monitor the situation in Morocco. Some of them have hostile intentions toward our country, or are influenced by the propositions of our foes. They are the ones overseeing the formulation of inaccurate dossiers and reports, upon which officials base some of their stances.”

The king accused Algeria, without naming it, of being responsible for the unfair treatment aimed at Morocco, through the funding of some organizations that he also did not name.

He went on to say that Morocco has no problem in “positively responding to the legitimate aspirations of its citizens, wherever they are.” He also noted that he had, in this regard, established institutions that safeguard and bolster human rights, in an independent and credible manner, pursuant to international standards. But he rejected being lectured to on this subject, "particularly by those who systematically trample on human rights.”

The king added: “Anybody who takes issue with Morocco only has to go down to Tindouf and witness violations to the most basic of human rights in the surrounding area.” In the first allusion of its kind to the violations taking place in southwest Tindouf, where Polisario Front camps are located.

He promised to continue Morocco’s cooperation with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, his personal envoy to the Sahara region, Christopher Ross, as well as friendly countries, “in their efforts to find a definitive political solution to this contrived conflict," tying those efforts to the self-rule initiative [for the Western Sahara] that Morocco has been proposing since 2007.

The king also reviewed the situation in the southern Sahara Sahel region, and talked about strengthening his country’s relations with “the African family.” He stressed that Rabat “would spare no effort toward establishing peace and stability in all regions of the African continent, all the while contributing to solving crises through peaceful means, and participating in peacekeeping operations under the auspices of the United Nations.”

He urged the government of Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane to better cooperate with African countries in all fields, sign free trade agreements and achieve regional economic integration. He also announced the development of a new policy, based on a comprehensive humanitarian approach, to deal with the issue of immigrants coming from African countries.

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Found in: western sahara, polisario front, king mohammed vi, human rights, foreign policy
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