Why Paris supports the autonomy plan in Western Sahara

The Morocco-proposed autonomy plan for Western Sahara has once again been hailed this week as a serious basis for reaching a political settlement of the conflict that the Algeria-backed Polisario is stubbornly perpetuating.

This came during the working visit French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius paid to Morocco March 9 and 10.

“France supports the Moroccan autonomy plan as a serious and credible basis for a negotiated settlement, in accordance with the resolutions of the UN Security Council,” said the joint statement issued at the end of the French official’s visit.

France’s stand on the Western Sahara issue is not new, as the European country which had colonized the states of the region, including Algeria, Mauritania and Morocco, knows the ins and outs of the conflict. Therefore, France’s support to the autonomy plan is just an acknowledgement of the historic reality that prevailed at the time the region was partitioned between two colonizing powers, France and Spain.

Today, Paris and other world capitals are aware that the settlement of this artificial conflict is more urgent than ever. They know that it would be a disastrous geostrategic mistake to have in Western Sahara a new hot spot in a region already threatened by instability. Actually, from Libya to Mali, going through Algeria, the region is regularly shaken by terrorist attacks and all the countries bordering on the Sahara-Sahel desert are in an extremely alarming situation on the security level.

The inexorable rise of terrorist violence, fueled by Islamic extremists and separatist groups, makes it most urgent to stabilize and secure the area. The settlement of the Western Sahara issue should be part of these stabilization efforts to keep the extremists out of North Africa. And the autonomy plan is the key to the region stability as the major powers are fully aware of.