Q1: Was Morocco colonized in the past and how did it recover its sovereignty?
The Kingdom of Morocco had been under three colonizers, the French in the center, the Spanish in the North and the South and an international administration of 12 foreign powers in the city of Tangier.
When Morocco recovered its independence in 1956 it did not immediately regain all of its national territory. Having been subject to three-fold colonization, by France in the central part of the country, by Spain in the north and south and by an international administration in the city of Tangiers, the Kingdom of Morocco had to negotiate in stages the return of these different portions of its national territory, in full conformity, moreover, with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations.
In full compliance with the principles and objectives of the UN Charter, Morocco opted for the same approach to recover its Saharan region that was under Spanish administration. Therefore, Morocco recovered Tarfaya in 1958 and Sidi Ifni in 1969, in virtue of the respective treaties of "Cintra" and "Fez". The Sahara and the area of Sidi Ifni were parts of the same “package”.
Q2 : What was the situation in the Sahara region ?
In 1965, UN General Assembly resolution 2072 urged “the Spanish government, as the administering power, to take the necessary measures for the liberation of Sidi Ifni and the Spanish Sahara and to initiate, to this end, negotiations regarding the sovereignty issue posed by these two territories.”
The Spanish regime at the time agreed to withdraw from Sidi Ifni first and put off, for politico-military considerations, the negotiations on the region of "Saqia El Hamra and Oued Ed-Dahab."
Unfortunately, the changes in the context of Spain, the Maghreb, and at the international level, made that the recuperation by Morocco of the Sahara region created some protests, after the signing of “Madrid Agreement” in November 1975, which is duly registered at the UN’s Secretariat General.
Besides, there are hundreds of documents that serve as evidence about the legitimacy of the allegiance of the tribes of the Sahara to the Moroccan State, which was transmitted by the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice in 1975.
These documents include correspondences, epithelia of appointment of judges and assignments directed to the Sahara tribes, as there are more than 12 international conventions concluded by Morocco before the French Protectorate with both Britain, the United States, France and Spain, under which most of these countries recognize the Moroccanness of the Sahara, thus including the Sahara in the application of agreements between Morocco and these countries.
Q3 : Did polisario have any role during the liberation of the Moroccan Sahara from Spanish colonialism ?
Polisario did not exist during the Spanish colonial period. Morocco was the only country to claim the territory, at the international level. Polisario is not recognized, at the international level, as a “liberation movement”, and even less as “sole and legitimate representative” of the Sahrawi population. Accordingly, polisario holds no legal or popular base, or even any democratic legitimacy whatsoever, to aspire to represent the population of Sahrawi origin.
Q4 : Is Morocco an occupying power of the Sahara region ?
Considering Morocco as "occupying power" is totally wrong and inappropriate. The concept of "occupying power" is clearly defined in The Hague Regulations of 1907 and in the IV Geneva Convention adopted in August 12th, 1949, stipulating that the notion of "occupying power" applies to the occupation of the territory of an existing State during an international armed conflict. Yet, at the time of the Sahara recuperation, there was no independent State other than the Kingdom of Morocco.
Moreover, no report of the UN Secretary General, no resolution of the Security Council, and no legal opinion of the UN, describes Morocco as "occupying power". For over thirty years, there has not been any UN General Assembly resolution on the issue that has conferred such a status to Morocco, unlike the allegations presented by the other parties.
Q5. why the dispute over the Moroccan Sahara has a regional character?
Algeria has been making systematic efforts since 1973 to thwart the full realization of Morocco's territorial integrity. Algeria's involvement in the question of Sahara has taken many and various forms: military engagement, financial and logistical support, diplomatic mobilization and training, breaches of international humanitarian law and the like. In addition to harbouring on its soil and supporting the Frente POLISARIO, Algeria sponsored the creation of a bogus "republic" in 1976 and rallied vigorously to get some countries to recognize this fictitious "entity" lacking in any feature of a sovereign State.
Furthermore, the official communications from Algeria addressed to the United Nations show clearly that the country presents itself as either a "concerned party" or an "important actor" or a "stakeholder" in the settlement of the dispute.
The Secretary-General of the United Nations and his Personal Envoy therefore rightly addressed Algeria directly to urge it "to engage as a party in these discussions [on the framework agreement] and to negotiate, under the auspices of my Personal Envoy, any specific changes it would like to see in the proposed document that would make it acceptable to it" (S/2001/613, para. 54).
Algeria's response to that proposal revealed plainly that that country is far more than a mere observer of the settlement process. The representative of Algeria in fact reproached the Secretary-General for having decided with "unacceptable casualness ... to reject ..., in a disrespectful manner, the objections by Algeria" to the framework agreement and for having ignored the point of view of "an important actor" (A/55/997).
In his report of 19 February 2002, the Secretary-General informed the Security Council about the visit that the Algerian President had made to Houston on 2 November 2001, during which he told Mr. James Baker, as Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General, that "Algeria and the Frente POLISARIO would be prepared to discuss or negotiate a division of the Territory as a political solution to the dispute over Western Sahara" (S/2002/178, para. 2).
Q6. Is Morocco illegally exploiting natural resources of the Sahara region?
The national natural resources management in the Sahara region is undertaking according to the requirements of development and the needs of the population, not through the logic investment of the region's resources, which fails to meet the pressing needs of the population. In this regard, His Majesty The King Mohammed VI underlined that “since we recovered the Sahara, for every single dirham of revenue from the Sahara, the state invests 7 dirhams there, as part of the solidarity between the regions and between the sons and daughters of the nation.” Speech of His Majesty The King of Morocco on 39th anniversary of the Green March, 06th November 2014.
That is why Morocco doubled its investments, including more than double the size of revenue from the Sahara phosphate, in various aspects which yielded sizable results considering the outcomes at the level of human development, through mechanisms and elected institutions. All of this represents a solid mechanism to track all the development projects in the Sahara. Therefore, the exploitation of the natural resources in the Sahara takes place within the framework of international law with the involvement of the population and for its benefit.
Q7: Is Referendum the only mean to exercise the right of self-determination?
The Referendum mechanism is not mentioned in any UN reference document in relation with self- determination
1. The United Nations Charter:
• Makes no reference to the referendum mechanism.
• Assimilates, in no way, the principle of self-determination to that of independence.
The issue of self-determination is dealt with in two chapters of the United Nations Charter (Chapters XI and XII). Article 73 of Chapter XI refers to the need to assist people in “the progressive development of their free political institutions, according to the particular circumstances of each territory and its peoples and their varying stages of advancement”.
Similarly, reference resolutions of UN General Assembly (1514 and 1541 of 1960 and 2625 of 1970) do not mention referendum. Furthermore, UN General Assembly identifies four equal and distinct solutions of self-determination: independence, association, integration (resolution 1541) and "any other political status freely determined" (Resolution 2625), without any mentioning of the mechanism that has to lead to one or the other of the advocated solutions. Referendum is not the compulsory step to exercise the right of self-determination
Since 1945, UN has supervised only 6 referenda:
- 2 led to independence (Namibia in 1990 and East Timor in 2002);
- 1 led to integration (West Irian in Indonesia in 1963);
- 2 led to the rejection of a proposed status of free association between Tokelau and New-Zealand (2006 and 2007).
Therefore, out of the 64 cases related to non-autonomous or trust territories settled by the United Nations since 1945, only three cases have been settled by a referendum.
Q7. Is Referendum applicable to The Sahara regional dispute?
Morocco participated in good faith in the implementation of the Settlement Plan proposed in 1991 by the United Nations to resolve the dispute over Sahara. However, implementation of the plan was thwarted by the obstacles constantly thrown up by the Frente POLISARIO to distort the identification process. The Secretary-General, in his report of 17 February 2000, observes that "nine years have elapsed" and "it has not been possible ... to implement in full any of the main provisions of the United Nations settlement plan, with the exception of the monitoring of the ceasefire", because of "fundamental differences between the parties over the interpretation of its main provisions" (S/2000/131, para. 32).
The Security Council drew the necessary conclusion from this finding in its resolution 1292 (2000) of 29 February 2000 by recommending to the Secretary-General to “consult the parties and, taking into account existing and potential obstacles, to explore ways and means to achieve an early, durable and agreed resolution of their dispute”, which would define their respective rights and obligations in Western Sahara.
Therefore, since 2004, the Security Council has been regularly calling upon “the parties and States of the region to continue to cooperate fully with the United Nations to end the current impasse and to achieve progress towards a political solution”.
In response to this call by the international community, the Kingdom of Morocco set a positive, constructive and dynamic process in motion, and pledged to submit an autonomy proposal for the Sahara, within the framework of the Kingdom’s sovereignty and national unity.
In this regard, Morocco submitted to the Secretary General of the United Nations, on April 11th 2007, “The Moroccan Initiative for negotiating an autonomous statute for the Sahara region”. Through this Initiative, the Kingdom of Morocco guarantees to the region's populations to run their affairs democratically, through legislative, executive, and judicial bodies. They will be endowed with the financial resources needed for the region's development, in all fields, and will participate, actively, in the nation's economic, social and cultural life.
Besides, the different resolutions adopted, since 2007, by the Security Council have progressively backed the Moroccan approach and gave pre-eminence to the Moroccan autonomy initiative. They also stressed the importance of “the realism and the spirit of compromise," two fundamental qualities of the Initiative, and called for intensive and substantial negotiations on this basis. On the other hand, the position of Algeria and the polisario continues to be based on a biased and oriented understanding of the self-determination principle and on a philosophy that is in contrast with the orientation given by the Security Council and wished by the international community to solve this regional dispute.
In parallel with the inaction policy and obstruction tactics in negotiations, Algeria and polisario have multiplied attempts to derail the process, through a systematic instrumentalization of human rights issue. In this context, the other parties spare no efforts to delay reaching a realistic solution of compromise to this dispute. They make of the instrumentalization of human rights, their strategic tool to "suffocate" the political negotiation process and to torpedo the positive momentum created by the Moroccan autonomy initiative.
Therefore, exploiting the climate of political openness and the expansion of freedom space in the Kingdom, the other parties have conducted diversion manoeuvres, manipulation actions and provocative acts, cynically brandishing the human rights banner and "firing on all cylinders". These recurring acts, deliberately provocative and flashy, aim, in fact, at concealing the refusal of the other parties to engage in substantive negotiations. They also contribute to maintaining the status quo that brings about political tensions and security risks, in the region.
The Kingdom of Morocco remains committed to continue negotiations and reaffirms its political will to move towards a political solution of compromise. The other parties should abandon their blocking position as well as their diversion strategies and engage resolutely and in good faith in the process of seeking a realistic and feasible solution that will bring peace, stability and prosperity to the Maghreb region. The International community members should support the dynamic of negotiations and denounce Algeria’s and polisario’s widely known strategy of countering the current political dynamic and harming the negotiation process