Western Sahara Politicians In Ireland Seek Diplomatic Recognition

Following nearly fifty years of Moroccan control over Western Sahara (Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, as it would like to be known), last week Wednesday saw the meeting between Irish and Western Saharan politicians in Dublin to discuss this issue of diplomatic recognition for the territory. 

Security Council Report expects the United Nations Security Council to discuss the Western Saharan situation this month, in time for the renewal of the mandate of the “UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara” (MINURSO), which expires at the end of October. This impending deadline accounts for and heightens Western Saharan politicians’ recent pleas to the Irish officials. 

In 1975, when Spain withdrew from what was one of its colonies, Morocco unilaterally deemed the territory theirs. Consequently, conflict between the indigenous Sahrawi people and Moroccan troops erupted. Although somewhat halted by the United Nations referendum in 1991 which granted Western Sahara autonomy under Moroccan rule, November last year saw a resurgence in tensions and violence between Algeria (which supports the Western Sahara indigenous populations) and Morocco. As these tensions remain ongoing, Algeria has cut energy supplies to Morocco which in turn affects much of the energy supply in Spain and Portugal, as reported by the United States Institution of Peace. 

Western Sahara is “Africa’s last colony,” as remarked by the territory’s representative to Europe, Oubi Bachir, and the outcome of this ongoing conflict has significant implications for peace in the region. Not only is the necessary economic development of the region through peaceful relations and co-operation threatened, but the long-term security from violent extremist groups who may find a safe haven amongst the turmoil. 

Given that Ireland currently holds one of the non-permanent seats in the United Nations Security Council, the country is in a relatively strong position to press for a more urgent response from the international community to the situation in Western Sahara. As a result, the delegation which met with Irish officials last week is pushing for greater, extended peacekeeping efforts in the region as well as a trade ban on Moroccan natural resources taken from Western Sahara, according to reports from the Irish Times. These peaceful, diplomatic attempts at conflict resolution, which indeed have the potential to peacefully resolve tensions, are noteworthy and are in stark contrast to the violent relations and lack of peaceful co-operation between Russia and Ukraine in the status quo. 

The ultimate question of whether the Irish will grant diplomatic recognition to the contested territory and whether the Irish will be able to execute some agency within the Security Council on this question remains to be seen. Until then, peace in Western Sahara remains in sight, yet out of reach for now.