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Israel's Western Sahara move 'null and void' - Polisario Front

Israel's Western Sahara move 'null and void' - Polisario Front
The Polisario Front flag flies as an United Nations helicopter files over the Smara refugees camp near Tindouf, south-western Algeria, Saturday, March 5, 2016.   -  
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Toufik Doudou/AP

Western Sahara

Israel's decision to recognise Moroccan sovereignty over the disputed Western Sahara is meaningless, the Algeria-backed Polisario movement said.

"Such a position emanating from the Zionist entity or any other party to legitimise the Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara is null and void," the "Sahrawi Ministry of Information" said in a statement on Wednesday (Jul. 19).

On Monday, the royal cabinet in Rabat said Israel had decided to "recognise Morocco's sovereignty" over the mineral-rich desert region, citing a letter from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israel confirmed the contents of the statement from Morocco when contacted by AFP.

In a statement quoted by Algeria's official APS news agency on Wednesday, the Polisario said the development would "only reinforce the determination of the Sahrawi people to pursue their national struggle on several fronts".

It denounced "subversive joint security and military manoeuvres aimed at destabilising the North African region and the Sahel in general".

Israeli recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over the disputed territory was "a non-event", the Polisario added.

This move "brings no added value to Rabat. On the contrary, it only makes it look worse, as it confirms the alliance of a State with an entity which occupy, both of them using the military, the Western Sahara and Palestine", the Sahrawi Ministry of Information" added.

The organization disputing sovereignty over Western Sahara with Morocco, further said it regretted a "scornful" decision given the "anger millions of Moroccans who hold Palestine and Al-Quds [Editor's note: the Arabic name of Jerusalem, one of Islam's holiest cities] dear" to their heart.

Why hasn't the territorial issue been resolved?

The Western Sahara dispute dates back to 1975, when colonial ruler Spain withdrew from the territory, sparking a 15-year war between Morocco and the Polisario which seeks the territory's independence.

In this conflict, the Polisario Front is backed by Algeria.

Provisions of the 1991 ceasefire deal planned for a UN-supervised self-determination referendum, which has still not taken place.

Rabat controls nearly 80 per cent of Western Sahara and  claims the entire region, home to abundant phosphates and fisheries, as its sovereign territory.

The Polisario Front continues to demand the UN-supervised referendum be held.

Algeria and Morocco have had no diplomatic ties since 2021, after months of tensions, and after Morocco normalised relations with Israel as part of a series of US-backed deals with Arab states known as the Abraham Accords. 

In recent years, Morocco has obtained major diplomatic gains.

Spain and Portugal shifted on their neutral positions to back the north African kingdom's autonomy plan for the disputed Western Sahara.