Saturday, May 28

Sánchez leaves the Sahara in the hands of Morocco

Spain has changed a diplomatic position maintained for decades by all governments. The Spaniards have found out on a Friday afternoon through a news broadcast by a Moroccan source without any parliamentary debate or prior information to the country’s media. Pedro Sánchez has completely turned around the principles of Spain in the Sahara with the acceptance of the Moroccan idea of ​​limiting its self-government to autonomy within Morocco, something that the Polisario Front has always rejected since Rabat proposed that exit in 2007.

There is no doubt that it is a great success for Mohamed VI. It is almost on a par with the US decision to recognize Moroccan sovereignty of the Sahara at the time of Donald Trump. That step was a gift in exchange for Israel’s recognition by Morocco. The Joe Biden Administration, which probably would not have made that decision, has not reversed it.

Sánchez’s letter writing is not without skill. He says that autonomy is the “most serious, realistic and credible” proposal for the resolution of the conflict. We know it won’t happen tomorrow. Pass the ball to Morocco to find a solution that is “mutually acceptable”, which today is impossible. It will be different when Rabat once again reiterates its proposal for autonomy and is rejected by the Polisario and Algeria.

With Sánchez’s decision, Spain abandons the defense of the Saharawi cause, a measure that has a very high symbolic value on the left. At the level of principles, it had been shared by the governments of the PSOE and the PP and supported by the vast majority of parliamentary forces. It is abandoned in exchange for the only priority that the current government values, which consists of betting everything on relations with Morocco, fundamentally because of its importance in migration policy. It is taken for granted that the measure will be opposed by Algeria, but that its government will not retaliate in the export of gas because it needs those funds in its economy.

It is true that the Spanish governments have spent decades without doing anything relevant in relation to the Sahara issue. They were not obliged, since the situation on the ground did not admit any change and they could limit themselves to uphold the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council and support the measures that the UN Secretary General could take.

The UN Security Council unanimously approved in 1991 resolution 690 by which it supported the celebration of “a self-determination referendum for the people of Western Sahara”, whose organization was left to the secretary general. A UN mission was launched in the Sahara, called Minurso, whose mandate has been extended since then.

The discrepancies between the Moroccan Government and the Polisario Front on the census of the consultation in the former Spanish colony meant that it was not held. The United States and France never pressured Rabat to make the deal possible, and the UN failed to organize the referendum. Morocco was too important for Washington and Paris. Spain lacked international weight to alter that scenario.

The latest UN resolution defends a “political solution” to the conflict, along the lines of all the previous ones, but does not mention the word referendum. What happens is that it is not feasible to defend “the right to self-determination of the Saharawi people” with an idea of ​​autonomy imposed by Rabat against the will of the Saharawis.

Neither the PSOE partner in the Government nor the Popular Party had been previously informed. United We Can and Vice President Yolanda Díaz have reiterated their commitment to the defense of the Saharawi people. In the case of Díaz, “for dialogue and respect for the democratic will of the Saharawi people.”

Podemos has already had to accept the shipment of weapons to the Ukrainian government after the Russian invasion, which will not be the last. There is a maximum number of issues on which the PSOE and United We Can be in different trenches in foreign policy. Díaz has managed to prevent the war in Ukraine from being transferred in all its harshness to the coalition government. The Sahara conflict is yet another shock that occurs a few days after the previous one. At this rate, there will come a time when mediation by the vice president will no longer be enough.