The UN resolution in Morocco is a slap in the face for Algeria: analysis

To understand the political significance of the new UN resolution on the Sahara conflict, it is convenient to analyze it in the light of the regional context in which it was adopted: unprecedented tension between Morocco and Algeria.

Political-strategic differences and the media conflict have marked the relations between these two Maghreb neighbors for at least four decades. However, hostility has reached a decisive and more worrying turn in recent months, culminating in the severing of all Algeria’s relations – diplomatic, commercial, etc. – with Morocco.

Not content with this sudden diplomatic breakdown, the barrage of unproven accusations, ad hominem attacks and virulent statements that it has launched at the eternal “Moroccan enemy”, Algeria recently issued an equally outrageous statement to the UN.

In fact, just one day after the adoption of Resolution 2602 by the UN Security Council, Algiers, already furious, warned the council against any continuation of the UN political process in Western Sahara within the parameters that the organization has adopted since 2007.

It is no secret that the events in A protester waves an Algerian flag (credit: REUTERS / CHRISTIAN HARTMANN)

On November 13, 2020, when Moroccan security forces evicted a group of Polisario militiamen who had blocked the road between southern Morocco and northern Morocco, as well as the US recognition of Moroccan sovereignty, they have changed considerably the regional balance of power in favor of Morocco.

Over the past 12 months, the Polisario and Algeria have worked tirelessly to incite regional conflict in Western Sahara and force the UN Security Council to intervene. They have issued a series of press releases alleging a “raging war” and implying that the situation could worsen if the UN does not fulfill its commitment to allow the Sahrawis to exercise their right to self-determination through a referendum.

All these gesticulations and aggressive speech by Algeria and the Polisario Front aimed to achieve three objectives:

First, they wanted to persuade the Security Council to discuss the events of November 13 and return Morocco to the pre-November 13 status quo. In other words, Algeria was determined to anticipate or openly oppose the Security Council’s tacit approval of Moroccan sovereignty over Guerguerat at any cost.

His second objective was to get the Security Council to reconsider its position on the preponderance or centrality of a realistic and compromise-based political solution to the Sahara conflict. They wanted the Security Council to reintroduce a review of the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), for example, reestablishing the referendum option and not mentioning Algeria as an integral part of the conflict.

Third, instead of a one-year mandate, they aspired to reduce the duration of MINURSO’s mandate to six months, as it was between 2017 and 2018. For Algeria and the Polisario Front, such a change would increase pressure on Morocco and it would force him to make concessions that allow them to compensate for the diplomatic setbacks they have suffered in recent months.

In other words, in a context that has been marked by Morocco’s repeated diplomatic victories, Algiers wants to put Rabat on the defensive.

However, to the great chagrin of Algeria, the Security Council does not appear to have been moved by the protests and outbursts of Algeria. In fact, the fact that Guerguerat is not mentioned at all in the latest United Nations Security Council resolution on the Sahara conflict adds to Morocco’s recent diplomatic advances.

First, the tone of the new resolution suggests that the Security Council has reached an agreement on the Guerguerat issue and that this area, which was previously part of the buffer zones, is now effectively under Moroccan control.

To put it bluntly, Resolution 2602 is a new slap in the face for Algeria. Because, in addition to settling the issue of Guerguerat, the resolution makes it very clear that political realism and compromise – curiously, the Moroccan position since the highly applauded 2007 Autonomy Plan – is the only way to solve the territorial dispute.

Furthermore, the Security Council, as mentioned in its previous resolutions, maintains the negotiating framework based on roundtables established in December 2018 and considers Algeria as a full participant in the conflict and not just as an observer. This is a significant political step as the UNSC explicitly says that Algeria must participate in the Geneva talks with Morocco, Mauritania and the Polisario.

Morocco’s strong position is also reflected in the tone of the UN Security Council, which has been in place for more than two years. The North African kingdom has repeatedly urged the UN to recognize Algeria’s leadership role in the Sahara conflict, as well as its responsibility in seeking a political solution that preserves regional stability.

Another important component of the new resolution is its call on the parties to the conflict to embrace pragmatism and political realism as the only and most viable way out of the decades-long diplomatic stalemate. Resolution 2602 thus represents a continuation of the paradigm shift that has been taking place in UN diplomacy on the Sahara issue for the past 15 years: the recognition of the impossibility, or even deception, of a referendum on self-determination.

More specifically still, since the adoption of Resolution 2414 in April 2018, the UNSC has emphasized that only through political compromise and negotiations based on realism can the Sahara conflict be ended. The term “commitment” was mentioned three times in that resolution, four times in Resolution 2440 and five times in resolutions 2468, 2494, 2548 and 2602, respectively.

To measure the political importance of the UN’s tone on the Sahara issue, the current resolution must be compared with previous ones, in particular those adopted between April 2007 and April 2017. With the exception of resolutions 1754 and 1783, which do not Using the term “compromise”, each of the other resolutions emphasized the need for the parties to be guided by a spirit of compromise only once.

The same can be said of the term “realism.” Nowhere does the term “realism” appear in resolutions 1754 and 1783 passed in April 2007, while it is only mentioned once in each of the resolutions passed between April 2008 and October 2018.

The adoption of Resolution 2440, which emphasizes the need for realism twice, initiated a dramatic shift from self-determination to a realistic, compromise-based political solution. The principle of “realism” has been cited three times in all UN resolutions on the Sahara conflict since the adoption of Resolution 2464, including Resolution 2602.

This is an especially important aspect for any honest analysis of the Sahara conflict, given the importance of each word (verb, adverb or adjective) in Security Council resolutions or other UN bodies, and the fact that delegations from Member States sometimes spend a whole day debating the choice of this or that word.

By emphasizing the need for “compromise-based” negotiations to find a “practical” political solution to the Sahara conflict, the UNSC has once again rejected the pleas of Algeria and the Polisario to organize a self-determination referendum.

All the resolutions passed since 2007 have shown that a solution to the problem must not produce winners and losers. Rather, it should be grounded in political realism and commitment and driven by a genuine will to end the tragedy of thousands of Sahrawi families and avoid further regional instability.

However, as the main provider of financial, strategic and logistical support to the Polisario Front for more than four decades, Algeria considers any solution other than the establishment of an independent state in southern Morocco an unacceptable defeat.

The writer is a Washington-based political analyst. He is an expert on Moroccan foreign policy, as well as MENA policy. He is the author of two books on relations between Morocco and Spain, published in French. He is preparing a book on the Sahara in English to be published next spring. He is the co-founder of Morocco World News.

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