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Morocco’s Little Palestine

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    Posted: 20 February 2007 at 4:55am
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Morocco, Polisario at odds over autonomy plan
Morocco released a draft plan to give the Western Sahara autonomy
within the Moroccan state. However, the Polisario Front has rejected the
plan, and insists on a popular referendum for self-determination.
By Adel Dekkaki for Magharebia in Washington -- 16/02/07

Getty Images] Moroccan King Mohammed VI during a 2006 visit to city of
El Ayoun, the capital of Western Sahara. The Polisario has rejected
Morocco's autonomy proposal.
Morocco approved last month the first draft of a plan for autonomy for
the Western Sahara -- a territory under dispute by the Rabat government
and the Polisario Front since 1975. The government announced it was
holding a series of meetings to discuss the proposal with Moroccan
political parties before completing the final draft, which is expected to be
submitted to the UN in April.

The proposal consists of giving the Western Sahara region autonomy
within Moroccan sovereignty. "We believe that the solution to this issue
consists of giving the Sahrawis … what we have always demanded, which
is to run our own affairs within Moroccan sovereignty, because there are
commercial, historical and family ties binding us to the Moroccan nation.
Therefore, separation was not an option," Khali Henna Ould Errachid,
chairman of the Royal Consultative Council for Sahara Affairs (CORCAS),

Algerian Foreign Minister Mohammed Bedjaoui, whose country hosts
Sahrawi refugees in Tindouf, said that the sole option for resolving the
dispute between Morocco and the Polisario Front is to hold a popular
referendum on self-determination for the Sahara.

Polisario Foreign Minister Mohammed Ould Salek described the proposal
for autonomy within the framework of Moroccan sovereignty as an
"unacceptable solution" that takes away the Sahrawi people’s right to
self-determination. Ould Salek accused Morocco of trying to dodge prior
agreements pertaining to the Sahara issue, particularly the Huston
Accords and the settlement plan ratified by the UN in 1991. "Morocco is
taking steps backward and doesn’t want to proceed to the referendum.
The Polisario Front regards the referendum as the only, possible solution,
and there is no alternative to self-determination [for] the Sahrawi people,"
he said.

Ould Errachid said that the current deadlock in talks between Morocco
and the Polisario Front cannot be allowed to continue. He says the matter
is unacceptable "because with it comes the suffering of our brethren in
the Tindouf camps on Algerian soil. Autonomy allows residents of the
region to run their affairs themselves politically, economically, socially
and culturally. This is a high degree of self-determination, a high degree
of respect for international law and a high degree of democratic practice
in bestowing the rights of minorities and attaching them to the political
entity which is Morocco."

Morocco claims that the Polisario Front does not represent the majority of
Sahrawis and is thus unable to speak on their behalf. On the other hand,
the Polisario say they are a legitimate movement and claim that CORCAS
does not represent Sahrawis. "If Moroccans consider the Sahara part of
Morocco, and if Sahrawis are Moroccans, we don’t know and we don’t
understand why the Moroccans are afraid of holding the referendum,"
Ould Salek said.

The Moroccan government is to submit the final draft of the proposal for
autonomy of the Western Sahara within the framework of Moroccan
sovereignty to the UN next April, as the MINURSO mission to the Western
Sahara is expected to end on April 30th.

In its last resolution on the Sahara, the UN Security Council called on the
parties to the conflict to come to a mutually agreed political solution
through negotiations. It further called on the Moroccan government and
the Polisario Front to return to the negotiating table without any prior
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