* “After six years of Polisario stonewalling, it is clear that the Polisario tactic has been to wait, delay, prolong, and hope that something changes. It hasn’t, and the new appropriations bill language makes that clearer than ever.” *
The new mandate to use US assistance funds for Morocco in Western Sahara, included in the 2014 Omnibus Appropriations bill passed by Congress and just signed by the President should be a wake-up call to those in the Polisario Front who refuse to compromise or conduct meaningful, realistic negotiations to resolve the conflict there.
There has not been a single round of formal negotiations between Morocco and the Polisario Front since 2008, when Peter van Walsum, the former Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General for Western Sahara, issued his bracingly honest report calling for the next round of formal talks to focus only on a real solution based on autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty.
The US has supported that approach for years – through three presidential Administrations (Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and now Barack Obama), clear statements from then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and with bipartisan backing in the House and Senate for both a solution based on autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty and the Moroccan Autonomy Initiative.
This bill translates words into action, leaving no doubt about the strong US position.
After six years of Polisario stonewalling on the issue, it is clear that the Polisario tactic has been to wait, delay, prolong, and hope that something changes. It hasn’t, and the new appropriations bill language makes that clearer than ever.
To those in the camps who do want to find a realistic solution based on true local autonomy, now is the time to help move the negotiations to a new formal round based on this formula.
The US government continues to support a peaceful and realistic solution; the Moroccan government continues to support a peaceful and realistic solution. The UN and those in the camps who want the same thing need to come forward. The issue has been unresolved for too long, it’s time for serious negotiations based on the only credible compromise: local autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty.