quinta-feira, 16 de julho de 2009

Obama exert pressure on Morocco to resolve the conflict in the Sahara

It seems that what has been said in this blog was not misleading: Obama is pushing Morocco to accept a solution to the conflict in Western Sahara in conformity with the international law. Mohamed VI, very angry with the Americans, has refused to accept Christopher Ross, the US diplomat appointed Personal Envoy of the UN. In Western Sahara and Mauritania are waging a silent battle between the US and France. With whom are the president Rodriguez and the minister Moratinos? The Spanish press assessed columns and pages for the scandalous arrest of an imaginary “Jihadist cell” and did say nothing of the UN Personal Envoy tour for the issue of Western Sahara; tour in which important things happened and which deserve consideration.

I/ The context: the USA excludes Morocco from the settlement of the conflict in Mauritania.

Readers (…) have already read that in Mauritania there has been a silent struggle of influence between France and USA.

Mauritania’s crisis has been resolved with respect for the constitutional legality, as claimed by the USA. The other “solution” was to validate the coup, the "solution" backed by France and Moratinos has failed. Not only that, but the main agent of the French politics, Morocco, has been excluded from resolution of the crisis in Mauritania by the USA as revealed by the Moroccan weekly Al Ousboue in its edition of 2nd July which stated that:

"Ross advisers who accompany him (in his current tour to the region) spoke about the success of the Obama plan in Mauritania and that the head of the military junta, Ould Abdelaziz was forced to resign (...) For the first time Morocco has been excluded and no Moroccan representative to participate in the US efforts in Nouakchott (...) Obama wants a solution to all problems in the region, including the conflict of the Sahara in two years.”

II/ The Moroccan proposal of “autonomy” is definitely buried: towards a modified version of “Baker Plan”.

Ross visited the region with a new proposal. This is in itself significant because it means, quite simply, not taking into consideration the Moroccan proposal to grant a so-called "autonomy" to the Western Sahara. Readers (...) don’t be surprised by this. The Security Council meeting in April 2009 adopted resolution 1871 during which the US ambassador did not support the Moroccan proposal, unlike what happened last year when the resolution 1813 was passed.

Speaking clearly, the line-Walsum Moratinos (supported by Arístegui) is a dead trail. Another "success" to add into the curriculum of President Rodriguez diplomacy.

It is clear to me that neither Ross nor USA, support the "solution" of a supposed "autonomy", but what is the new proposal? Before the tour I stressed that this new proposal could be in line with the Baker Plan.

Officially, we still do not know anything about it. But there is already some leakage. If we give credit to the Moroccan weekly Al Ousboue said:

"It seems that the UN Envoy, Ross, came to the region with a new proposal that stipulate a local authority elections to be held in Sahara on the basis of a process of identification conducted by both Morocco and POLISARIO, as a first step towards a solution.

For me personally, it does not seem to be far from the first phase of the Baker Plan.

The fact is that the plan proposed by Ross (we do not know exactly if it matches with what is reported by Al Ousboue) has been supported by the Algerian president, by Sahrawis and there was no rejection from the Mauritanian part. A scenario similar to what occurred at the Baker plan: When all supported the plan except Morocco. The isolation was such that France did not dare to vote against the Security Council resolution plan 1495 in July 2003, (knowing that Spain has been member of the Council then).

III. Mohamed VI asks Obama support. Obama asks him to support Ross and Mohamed VI challenges Ross.

III.1. Mohamed VI, alarmed by the efforts of Ross, has asked Obama support.

On July 3 the official Moroccan News agency (MAP) revealed Obama’s letter sent to Mohamed VI whereby for the first time the US president talks on the Western Sahara. But the MAP did not mention its date. The MAP, after reproducing the letter adds a final sentence that provides valuable information:

“It is recalled that King Mohammed VI had sent messages in recent weeks to the American president on various important issues.”

That is, the Moroccan Sultan, concerned about the course the conflict in Western Sahara is taking asked Obama’s help.

We should remember that Mohamed VI behaved similarly with Bush shortly after the adoption of the Baker Plan. In that case, the deal was successful. Apparently, as we have pointed out here that in exchange for US diplomatic support, Morocco has offered to "move" in Morocco the torture of CIA prisoners, using the proven "effectiveness" of torture of the Moroccans. Now, however, it seems that things have not been the same. Let’s see why.

III.2. Obama asked the Moroccan Sultan to support Ross

The letter from Obama (which, I insist, the MAP has not dated) said this:

“For the Sahara issue, said the American president, I understand the importance of Western Sahara issue to you, to your Kingdom and to the populations that have suffered from this conflict.

“I share your commitment that negotiations under the United Nations aegis, is the appropriate framework for achieving a mutually acceptable solution, and I hope that Christopher Ross, a diplomat who has broad experience in the region, may promote constructive dialogue between the parties,” he added.

In this regard, President Obama said his government “will work with you and with other parties in the region to reach a solution that meets the needs of the people, transparency in governance, trust in the State of law and the administration of fair justice.”

In other words, President Obama, asks Mohamed VI to support Ross’ efforts

III.3. Moroccan Sultan disregarded Ross.

Christopher Ross started his tour from Algeria on 23 June. There, he was received by President Bouteflika and the Algerian Foreign Minister to whom he explained his plan. Ross said after the meeting that he was "optimistic" about the possibility of resolving the conflict.

On 25 June he visited POLISARIO camps. There, he met the Sahrawi president and the team negotiating with Morocco. POLISARIO leaders indicated they are “fully prepared” to cooperate with Ross.

On 26 June Ross moved to the capital of Mauritania, where he met the new President, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs. It should be mentioned that in his first tour to the region, Ross did not visit Mauritania, where there was a government that is not recognized by the USA (though it has been recognized by France, Spain and Morocco). Now, after reaching a solution to the crisis under USA sponsorship, Ross met the highest Mauritanian officials.

On 27 June, Ross travelled to Rabat where there was neither Mohamed VI nor the Prime Minister to meet him. On arrival at the airport he was received by mid-level officials (an ambassador and a director of a ministry protocol). During 3 days the Moroccan Medias did not give information about the visit. He met the Foreign Minister, the Minister of Interior and Head of the Secret Services as well as a Saharawi collaborator with Morocco, Khalihenna Ould Rachid and an official of the Arab Maghreb Union. That was until 30 June.

However, according to a Moroccan newspaper (Al Akbar Al Youm, 1st July 2009):

Mohammed VI did not receive the Personal Envoy of the SG for Western Sahara, Christopher Ross, during his recent visit to Morocco. Some sources suggest that the king was visiting Oujda during the Ross stay, while others believe that the palace may be dissatisfied with Ross approach. In Morocco, it seems there is a bad feeling towards Ross according to the Francophone daily Le Soir and its brother Arabic Al Massae, in their edition issue of 2nd July 2009.

The UN Envoy left Morocco without meeting Mohamed VI. A source close to Al Massae revealed that Ross was “disappointed” with his interviews with the Moroccan officials who discussed with him superficial matters while the fundamental issues are of the king’s competence.

IV. What Spain would do?

On 30 June Ross came to Spain where he met with Moratinos. Consulting the page of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs we notice that there is no mention that Ross visit France: Is it a way of saying that the USA deliberately excluded the “French approach” in resolving Western Sahara conflict?

President Rodriguez likes to sell an “ideological” foreign policy according to which Spain supports one or another leader in certain scenarios as ideological sympathy. Well, if you paraphrase the slogan with which the electoral PSOE lost the European elections, we might say “this game is played in North Africa.” What is the game? The game of Western Sahara independence. Who plays? Conservative Sarkozy as the French and American leftist Obama. The game is played in Africa. With what side are the president and the Minister Moratinos Rodriguez?

* (by Carlos Ruiz Miguel, professor of Constitutional Law, at Santiago de Compostela University, Spain])

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