Algiers and Tindouf never expected King Mohamed VI’s speech to be bluntly forthcoming. They were convinced that in light of Morocco’s latest skirmishes with UN envoy to Western Sahara, Christopher Ross, were sufficient enough to corner Moroccan authorities to a place where they could no longer maneuver their way out of the trap they have set.
The king’s speech came as a shock, and every hope they had was dashed when he forcefully said that the Sahara would remain in Morocco until the end of time. The language he used was unprecedented: he essentially specified the criteria and the limits of any future negotiations with Morocco’s foes. There is no more ambiguity that any peace talks will have to take place with an understanding on all sides that independence is not an option.
During his speech, the king purposefully mentioned the cost and the sacrifice that Moroccans had to endure to develop and maintain their southern territories, sending a clear signal that the sacrifice will not be in vain. His role as the prime protector of the kingdom’s territorial integrity is not about to change, now or any time in the future.
The king made it known that the autonomy proposal in still on the table. Anything more than that would be futile. He could not have been more clear and firm when he said that the Sahara is in Morocco and it will stay in until the end of time.
The speech was not only intended just for Morocco’s foes, but also for the UN and Morocco’s friends.
To the UN, he clearly and simply said that Morocco has a proposal on the table that many consider to be “serious and credible”, and this should mean something, not just exist as a statement written on a piece of paper. He also asserted that anything agreed upon in 1991 will have to stay the same, and is not something the UN has the mandate to manipulate to fulfill the wishes of any party in the conflict. Inserting the Human Rights clause into the mandate was never agreed upon. If the UN unilaterally decides to include it, that would be the end of MINURSO.
Therefore, the UN has two options to choose from: either to find a solution based on the Moroccan proposal or end its mission in the Sahara. The king could not have been more honest and forthright. Let’s hope that the UN fully grasps the lengths Morocco is willing to go to resolve the problem, and realize that the red lines are clearly drawn, and crossing them will certainly end their mission in the Sahara.
For the first time, the king candidly and directly asked an American president to be forthcoming. When Obama met with the king, a statement from the White House praised the autonomy proposal as “serious and credible”. But at the same time, the White House is forcing Morocco to continue working with Christopher Ross, who clearly wants to nix the autonomy proposal that the Americans are supposedly supporting. Our friends in the US can no longer talk from both sides of their mouth. They need to choose a side: either Algeria or Morocco. Moroccans understand very well that the US does business based on their interests and never based on friendship or other factors.
There are questions that the US will have to answer in order to determine where they want to stand. Are they better off placing all their eggs in Algeria’s basket? Are they sure they want to sacrifice an unwavering ally for Algeria’s oil? Is it in their interest to create another failed microstate that could be a haven for terrorists? Morocco, according to the king’s speech, will no longer tolerate the flip-flopping of US officials.
The next statement from the White House will be extremely important. Either it will throw Morocco into the arms of China and Russia, or it will set things straight. Let’s hope Obama realizes that he cannot lose Morocco as a staunch ally and a resolute partner. Let’s hope that the US does the right thing.
By Majid Morceli