Egypt Denies Plans to Open Consulate in Morocco’s Southern Provinces

Egypt Denies Plans to Open Consulate in Morocco’s Southern Provinces. Photo: AFP

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Rabat – The Egyptian government has denied that it intends to join the growing list of Arab, African, and other countries that have decided to open consulates in southern Morocco.

Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs Rakha Hassan told Al Monitor that his country will not open a consulate in Western Sahara, saying “Egypt has no interest in this territory.”

The Egyptian official also took a position against that of Morocco’s sovereignty over the region, saying his country supports a referendum to allow the population in Western Sahara  decide whether they want to be part “of Morocco or to be independent.”

Citing UN resolutions, the Egyptian official said his country’s position is unchanged and will not change “overnight.”

The news contradicts Moroccan news outlet Le360 reports on Egypt’s intention to open a consulate in southern Morocco.

While Hassan claimed the position is in  line with UN resolutions, the statement shows direct support for Polisario’s independence claims, which contradicts the recent position taken by the UN, the United States and a growing section of the international community.

The UN-led political process has long considered the Autonomy Plan as a serious and credible solution to end the conflict.  The UN Security Council’s positions similarly establish that a solution to end the regional dispute should be mutually acceptable.

The Security Council has only further reinforced this approach since adopting  Resolution 2440 in 2018. It has stressed the need for all parties to show realism and willingness to work towards reaching a realistic, racticable, and mutually acceptable solution to end the conflict.

UN member states that take a neutral stance regarding the conflict commonly highlight support for the UN-led political process, without citing a referendum, which Algeria and Polisario along South Africa push for as a potential means to end the conflict.

Hassan’s statement confirm’s Egypt’s favoring Algeria’s claims, while simultaneously challenging Morocco’s position on its territorial integrity.

This is not the first time Egypt contested  Morocco’s position on its territorial integrity. In 2016, the Egyptian government received a delegation from the Polisario-run self-proclaimed SADR.  The delegation participated in the Arab-African parliamentary congress, with analysts saying that such a move could affect the relations between Morocco and Egypt.

Analysts say that if confirmed, Egypt’s hostile position regarding Morocco’s sovereignty could signal Egyptian displeasure with Morocco’s key role in the resolution of the Libyan conflict in which Egypt supported the losing side at the time of the cease-fire.

Morocco has played an important role in bringing peace to war-torn Libya, convening both parties to the conflict in Bouznika, near Rabat and Tangier for what became fruitful talks and consultations.

Morocco’s government showed determination to assist the UN-led process that contributed to finding a political solution to Libya, condemning foreign interference.

Egypt has repeatedly threatened to send troops to Libya, which constitutes a violation against the principle of non-interference in domestic affairs of another country. Egypt is also considered to have been a route for arms provisions to Khalifa Haftar, evading a UN ban of arms sales to Libya.  

Libyan officials from both the Tobruk and the Tripoli parliaments have expressed satisfaction with Morocco’s role in finding a solution to end the previously intractable political dispute in Libya.