Only few days separate us from the second round of negotiations that has to take place between Morocco and Polisario concerning the final status to be conferred to the Moroccan Sahara. In this perspective, it is interesting to examine the positions of the permanent members of The Security Council of the UN. The direct or indirect implication of the great powers in this old conflict, a residue of the cold war, has made them historically responsible for its permanence.

Considered for a long time as a conflict of low intensity, the great powers have proved to be less inclined to solve it. Yet, the persistency of conflictuality in this area of the world puts in jeopardy the regional stability, and by extension, the efforts of integration and development of the Maghrebi area. The multiple attempts to settle this conflict have all ended in failure. In order to release the situation, we have had to wait for the Moroccan initiative to negotiate a statute for the region of Sahara, launched in April 2007.

As everybody knows, the great powers are in favour of this initiative. In April 2007, the Security Council in its Resolution 1754 acknowledged the Moroccan initiative as « genuine and credible ». Is it the beginning of a real engagement of the international community to solve this conflict? Will the five permanent members of The Security Council have the necessary political will to make the other parties seize this historical opportunity? The analysis of reactions towards the Moroccan project incites optimism. A great number of states, notably, the members of The Security Council have qualified this initiative as being the credible basis for a historical compromise.

Whatever the strategic reasons that condition the British, the French or the American attitudes towards the Sahara dossier are, they remain largely motivated by two major concerns: the overtaking of the conflictuality and the construction of regional security. Following the example of the other members of The Security Council, Russia and China develop the same reaction by trying to contribute in the resolution of the conflict. Only the approaches differ. The two superpowers show a particular interest for the Maghrebi region. Nonetheless, the Russian and Chinese diplomacies display a certain political realism.

A priori, it is difficult to talk of an actual Chinese or Russian influence in a region coveted by the Americans and the Europeans. Yet, we have witnessed in the last few years a return with renewed force of Beijing and Moscow on the Maghreb scene. In the era of the economic globalisation, the Russians and the Chinese have started to develop economic strategies with the purpose to diversify their commercial partners. In the new geo-economic configuration of the world, the great states of this world are engaged in a merciless war to conquer new markets. Just like the Americans, Beijing and Moscow strengthen their presence in the promising Maghrebi market. Due to the strategic position of the Maghreb, Russian and Chinese firms will be able to settle and develop strategies to conquer the African and European markets.

Be it so, will this economic breakthrough of these two giants be accompanied by a real political engagement in the region? If yes, in what sense and for what objectives? Can the Russians and the Chinese impose themselves as true actors in the region? What will their real degree of implication in the resolution of the conflict in the Moroccan Sahara?

The Russians and the Chinese attitude with respect to the Sahara conflict can be summarized as follows: a constructive realism. In fact, a deep analysis of these attitudes reveals a certain continuity of their positions concerning the Sahara dossier.

Thus, the Russians and the Chinese remain favourable for a pacific resolution which takes into consideration the local and regional realities. At least, three factors explain this constructive realism of the Russian and the Chinese leaders.

Firstly, the two powers have the firm conviction that this conflict is no more than a residue of the cold war. In the era of East-West confrontation, the separatists' theses have benefited from the support of the East ex-bloc. Now, that dark age of history has been turned once and for all.

Secondly, the post-communist Russia and China remain confronted to the same problems as Morocco concerning the foreign politics. These two countries oppose all kinds of fragmentation and any separatist tendencies.

Thirdly, being more implicated in the resolution of this dispute, these two superpowers fully assume their international responsibilities since these two permanent members of the Security Council participate in the maintenance of peace and international security.

In brief, Russia and China maintain equidistant relations with all partners and support a final political resolution to the question of the Sahara.

Smail kouttroub
Research professor- University Mohammed V Souissi, Rabat