French President Hollande calls Morocco leader for peace and reform in region, backs autonomy initiative for Western Sahara
Hollande statement reflects long history of support by US and France on Sahara issue
Washington, DC (April 5, 2013) – Addressing Morocco’s Parliament Thursday on his first official state visit to the North African nation, French President Francois Hollande praised Morocco as a leader and partner for peace and reform in the region, and hailed Morocco’s autonomy initiative to resolve the Western Sahara conflict as “serious and credible.”
“The plan presented by Morocco in 2007 is a serious and credible basis for a negotiated solution” of the long-running Western Sahara dispute, said President Hollande. “The current stand-off is detrimental to everyone,” he said, adding that the revolt by al-Qaeda-linked extremists in northern Mali “makes it more urgent to put an end to this situation.”
Hollande also praised the new Constitution introduced in Morocco by King Mohammed VI in 2011. “Every day, your country takes decisive steps towards democracy,” he said. Hollande congratulated the King on the agenda of reforms he began more than a decade ago, and thanked him for Morocco’s support of France’s military intervention in Mali.
The French President’s position on the decades-old Western Sahara dispute reinforces that of previous French administrations, and the US’s own long-standing policy on the issue. Last year, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe called Morocco’s autonomy initiative for Western Sahara “the only realistic proposal” for resolving the 36-year-old stalemate over the territory.
On a trip to North Africa last year, then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Morocco’s autonomy initiative was “serious, realistic, and credible” and reaffirmed that US policy “has remained constant.” The past three US Administrations have backed the US policy supporting a solution based on autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty in Western Sahara—as well as bipartisan majorities in both Houses of Congress.
At a press briefing in Rabat last year, Secretary Clinton added that Morocco’s autonomy initiative “could satisfy the aspirations of the people in the Western Sahara to run their own affairs in peace and dignity,” and the US “continues to support efforts to find a peaceful, sustainable, mutually agreed upon solution.”
“I am heartened that President Hollande has reiterated the strong support of France for Morocco’s autonomy initiative for the Western Sahara,” said Edward M. Gabriel, former US Ambassador to Morocco. “This is an issue that affects prospects for stability and security in the region and beyond.”
Later this month, the renewal of the UN’s peacekeeping mission in Western Sahara (MINURSO) comes before the UN Security Council, of which Morocco is a non-permanent member. The Security Council, which has also called Morocco’s autonomy proposal “serious and credible,” is expected to urge the parties to reach “a just, lasting, and mutually acceptable political solution,” as called for in previous resolutions. The only realistic path according to many in the international community, including Peter Van Walsum, former UN Personal Envoy for the territory, is negotiating on the basis of autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty.
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