The Algerian Prime Minister, Abdelaziz Djerad, claimed on December 12, 2020 that the normalization of relations between Morocco and Israel “…are foreign maneuvers to destabilize Algeria” and that “there is now a desire by the Zionist entity to come closer to [Algeria’s] borders.” His statement follows the recognition of Morocco’s claims to Western Sahara by the United States, with the U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, stating, “The United States continues to believe only political negotiations are capable of resolving the issues between Morocco and the Polisario.” Yet, the Polisario Front, which controls approximately 20% of the Western Sahara, has vowed to continue fighting for their independence despite any international support towards Morocco in their claims to Western Sahara. The Polisario Front’s largest supporter, Algeria, has provided arms, training, financial backing, and even camps for Sahrawi refugees. According to Al Jazeera, Pablo de Orellana, a King’s College London scholar who has been extensively studying the conflict, believes that Moroccan government officials have largely dismissed Algerian support of the Polisario Front as a diplomatic communications strategy. This is largely meant to delegitimize the Sahrawi struggle for independence and instead minimize the conflict as only that of an attempt for Algeria to increase their power and influence over the territory.
The normalization of relations between Morocco and Israel is particularly frightening to Algeria, which fears the presence of Israeli troops along its borders with Morocco. According to France 24, Abed Charef, an Algerian journalist and analyst, claims, “The rapprochement between Morocco and Israel opens the way, if it has not already happened, for Israeli aid to support Morocco’s army.” Meanwhile, Algeria’s military magazine, El-Djeich, realized its latest December 2020 publication in which they cautioned of a “deterioration of the regional situation along our border and the threat that certain enemy parties pose” and urged the people of Algeria to “stand ready to face” any threats to the country. The Algerian army has already prepared for any potential threats to what it deems as its safety and security. In November of 2020, the Algerian government made new mandates to its constitution that allowed for the army to carry out any peacekeeping operations in nearby countries, which would include Western Sahara.
Meanwhile, the United Nations (UN) has been resolute in its stance towards Western Sahara, as they have not altered their peacekeeping mission, the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), in response to the alliance between Israel and Morocco. Instead, a spokesperson for the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres stated that they believe that “the solution to the question can still be found based on Security Council resolutions,” reaffirming the UN’s dedication to helping resolve this conflict. The purpose of MINURSO was to monitor the ceasefire between the Moroccan government and Polisario Front troops and assist in administering a referendum that would determine whether Western Sahara would be incorporated into Morocco or gain its independence. Yet, this referendum has yet to happen due to concerns over who is eligible to vote. The Moroccan government has steadily worked to increase the presence of Moroccan settlers within Western Sahara, which would effectively make Moroccans the majority group within the area. As it stands, Moroccan settlers currently make up an estimated 67% of the territory, which consists of a population of roughly 500,000.
When it comes to solutions for peace and justice, every individual deserves the right to self-determination. In the case of Western Sahara, Sahrawis should be able to vote in this referendum on whether they would like the territory to be incorporated into Morocco or gain their independence. Nations must hold Morocco accountable for the colonization of Western Sahara and place economic pressure on Morocco to be compliant in holding the referendum. In regards to Algeria, Morocco and Israel must both respect the sovereignty of Algeria but it is also the responsibility of Algeria not to further militarize Western Sahara, as this might result in an escalation of violence.
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