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In the wake of Morocco’s questioning of Spain’s apparent double-dealing on the Western Sahara issue, former French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, has said that France and Spain need to be clear on where they stand on the regional conflict.
Valls, who is of dual French and Spanish citizenship, has been city councilor of Barcelona since 2019. He was also France’s Prime Minister for two years, 2014-2016, under the Socialist President Francois Hollande.
Speaking on a wide range of Euro-Africa – especially Morocco-EU – relations with the advocacy and lobbying firm MGH Partners, the French-Spanish politician insisted that his two countries should stop hiding behind vague diplomatic statements when dealing with the lingering Western Sahara conflict.
“I think that France and Spain should be loyal partners of the Kingdom of Morocco on this issue [of Western Sahara]… France and Spain must be clearer about their support to Morocco on the Sahara,” he said.
Valls went on to specifically call on Spain, where some political parties have officially pledged support for the Polisario Front’s “Sahrawi cause.” In addition to conclusively dealing with such contradictions between Spain’s official position and some official’s pro-Polisario inclination, he argued, Madrid should more clearly support Morocco.
“In the Spanish government, there is a minority ally, the Podemos party, which sticks to an old rhetoric of what the Sahara should be, refusing to see the Moroccan dynamics on the ground,” Valls explained.
Valls described the Morocco-Israel rapprochement and former US President Trump’s proclamation in support of Morocco’s Western Sahara stance as a “major geostrategic shift.”
Following these developments, he suggested, it is only a matter of time for the international community to own up to the “reality on the ground” and support Morocco’s Autonomy Plan as the best, sustainable solution to the Sahara crisis.
For Valls, the Western Sahara conflict is a relic of “a world that no longer exists,” while Polisario’s independence claims are a fiction only supported by observers with an “obsolete vision” of the regional dispute.
An ‘indispensable’ ally
The French politician also lauded Morocco’s increasing continental assertiveness. He cited the North African country’s “formidable economic transformation over the past two decades,” its successful strategic “projection in Africa,” and its “indispensable role in the stabilization of the Mediterranean region and sub-Saharan Africa.”
The comments read like a sequel to Valls’s suggestion, in the aftermath of both Trump’s Sahara proclamation and the November 2020 escalations in Guerguerat, that the EU should unambiguously embrace Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara.
Supporting the creation of an independent state in Western Sahara would create more insecurity in an already fragile region, because Polisario is “involved in the trafficking of arms, human beings, and drugs in the Sahel region,” he said in November of last year.
Meanwhile, Valls’s latest interview comes on the heels of a growing rift between Rabat and Madrid after news emerged that Spain and Algeria cooperated “at the highest level” for the hospitalization of Brahim Ghali, Polisario’s leader, for COVID-19 treatment in a Spanish hospital.
With Ghali facing multiple accusations, including allegations of “crime against humanity,” tortutre, forced disappearance, and sexual misconduct, other European officials have criticized Spain for opening its doors to the Polisario leader.
Attila Ara-Kovacs, a Hungaian member of the European Parliament (MEP), described Ghali as a “well-known criminal” and lambasted the Spanish government for hosting him. “As a European citizen I am asking, how can the Spanish government allow a well-known criminal (B. Ghali, Polisario) to enter Europe?” he said.
In his interview with MGH Partners, Valls argued that European countries that continue to ignore Morocco’s strategic importance and undermine its interests are risking the loss of an “indispensable” ally.
“We have every interest in a peaceful relationship with Morocco because the European countries that want the opposite, lose every time,” he said.