Rabat – Bulgarian journalist Anton Stefanov and Hungarian university professor Joszef Steier have highlighted the predominance of Morocco’s Autonomy Plan as a realistic, sustainable solution for the Western Sahara conflict.
The initiative suggests giving the population living in Morocco’s southern region complete autonomy, on the condition that they remain under the kingdom’s sovereignty. The solution would enable the region to directly control its socio-economic development with funding from the Moroccan state, while defense and foreign affairs would remain a national matter.
According to Stefanov and Steier, the Moroccan proposal is “open, realistic, practical, and durable.”
The two commentators made the statement during their appearance on the 20th episode of the “Sahara Debate” online talk show. The episode was broadcasted on Tuesday, July 28.
Stefanov considered Morocco’s Autonomy Plan as the “one and only” solution to the regional dispute over Western Sahara. He recalled that “the international community deems it serious, credible, and realistic in the perspective of achieving peace and security in the region.”
Internationally recognized efforts
According to the journalist, the initiative fully complies with international law, including the principle of self-determination.
“It is a legal-political arrangement that preserves the unity of the state, while respecting the diversity of its components,” Stefanov said.
The Bulgarian commentator recalled that, since the end of World War II, the UN has supervised the establishment of approximately 70 autonomy arrangements, similar to Morocco’s Autonomy Plan.
The proposal “paves the way for the establishment of an atmosphere of peace, stability, and cooperation in North Africa and the Sahel, as well as integration of the Maghreb,” he added.
According to Stefanov, “the Moroccan project is inspired by contemporary models of territorial conflict resolution.” It also testifies to Morocco’s “sincere will” to achieve an agreed upon and mutually acceptable solution to the Western Sahara issue.
The UN Security Council has deemed Morocco’s Autonomy Plan as “serious” and “credible” in all its resolutions since 2007, Stefanov recalled.
The Security Council has consistently approved of Morocco’s efforts to solve the conflict. In its most recent resolution on the issue, published on October 30, 2019, the council welcomed Morocco’s steps.
Resolution 2494 welcomes “steps and initiatives taken by Morocco, and the role played by the National Council on Human Rights Commissions operating in Dakhla and Laayoune.”
The resolution also commended Morocco’s interactions with the UN Human Rights Council.
Solving Western Sahara conflict is key to regional prosperity
Professor Steier reiterated Stefanov’s words on Moroccan efforts, underlining the “realism” of Morocco’s Autonomy Plan.
He also called on Algeria to play a role that matches its responsibility in the creation, evolution, and persistence of the Western Sahara conflict.
Morocco has long called on Algeria to engage in the UN-led political process to solve the conflict. Although Algeria insists on its role as an observer, it actively supports the separatist Polisario Front, and recent UN texts reference the country as a party to the process. Resolutions 2494 and 2468, from October and April 2019, reference Algeria five times.
The UN Security Council is also urging Algeria to take part in a round table process to find a lasting solution for the Western Sahara conflict. Algeria first participated in the official talks in December 2018, alongside Morocco, Mauritania, and Polisario representatives.
The parties met again in Geneva, in March 2019, and pledged to meet for a third time in the same format.
The round table talks have since stalled. Algeria has delegated management of the Tindouf camps, where thousands of Sahrawis live under allegedly dire conditions, to Polisario.
According to Steier, the military, financial, and diplomatic support that Algeria provides the separatist Polisario Front with is “incomprehensible” in light of the country’s ongoing economic crisis.
A final solution to the dispute is essential for the development of the Maghreb region, Steier stressed. He emphasized that Morocco is an “engine” for Africa’s development, highlighting the country’s leading role in many South-South cooperation efforts.
Recalling that Morocco is among the most important investors in Africa, the Hungarian professor gave a series of examples of where the kingdom’s pan-African spirit shines.
Morocco is constantly sharing experience with African states in the fields of education, training, agriculture, sustainable development, and climate change adaptation, Steier concluded.