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8 Apr, 2024 14:10

African region accuses France of supporting ‘illegal’ occupation

Paris is determined to be a conspirator in Morocco’s crimes against the Sahrawi people, Western Saharan authorities say
African region accuses France of supporting ‘illegal’ occupation

France’s plan to finance projects in the disputed Sahrawi regions through the French Development Agency (AFD) is a provocative step, Western Sahara’s Information Ministry said on Saturday.

Such a move represents support for Morocco’s “illegal” occupation of parts of Sahrawi territory, as well as a “flagrant violation” of international law, according to a ministry statement published by local media.

Only Israel and the US have officially recognized Morocco’s sovereignty over the sparsely populated, phosphate-rich region. Just over 550,000 people live in Western Sahara, which has a population density of just two per kilometer; about half live in its capital Laayoune.

The statement comes a day after French foreign trade minister Franck Riester paid a visit to Morocco, renewing relations between the two countries.

“The renewal of French-Moroccan relations will involve new bridges between our private sectors,” Riester wrote on X (formerly Twitter) during his visit to Morocco, where he also announced the launch of the “Afrique France Entrepreneurs” community.

The French newspaper Le Monde reported Riester saying that the AFD, through its private sector financing arm Proparco, could help fund a project involving a high-voltage power line between Dakhla, a coastal city in Western Sahara, and the Moroccan port city of Casablanca.

Morocco sees Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony that it annexed nearly five decades ago, as its own, but the Algeria-backed Polisario Front demands sovereignty.

On Saturday, the Western Saharan government denounced Paris’ intended initiatives as a “dangerous escalation of the hostile French position towards the Sahrawi people and their just cause” of independence.

“The long-term and multidimensional French involvement in supporting the Moroccan occupation, and its recent announcement of its intention to finance projects in occupied Sahrawi lands, reaffirms that France is determined to be the conspirator and direct partner in the crimes committed by the Moroccan occupying state against the Sahrawi people since October 31, 1975,” it stated.

Rabat’s claim to Western Sahara has been the source of ongoing conflict with the Sahrawi people, led by the Polisario Front, which fought for independence until a fragile UN-brokered ceasefire was agreed upon in 1991.

Relations between Morocco and its neighbor Algeria have been strained because of Algeria’s long-standing support for the independence movement, but Rabat has insisted that limited autonomy is the best political solution it can offer the territory.

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