Rabat recalls its ambassador after Tunisian President Kais Saied received Brahim Ghali of the Polisario Front which claims the independence of Western Sahara, a disputed territory that Morocco considers its own.
Morocco recalled its ambassador to Tunis for consultations and canceled its participation in a pan-African investment conference after the Tunisian president hosted the leader of the Polisario movement.
In a statement released on Friday, Morocco’s foreign ministry said the move was “hostile and detrimental to the fraternal relations that the two countries have always maintained” and that it would “immediately” recall its ambassador and step down from the summit. TICAD.
“The Tunisian head of state’s welcome to the leader of a separatist movement (Polisario leader Brahim Ghali) is a serious and unique act that deeply hurts the feelings of the Moroccan people,” he said. .
“Tunisia, against the advice of Japan and in violation of the preparation process and established rules, decided unilaterally to invite” the Polisario, he added.
He also accused Tunisia of having recently “multiplied negative positions” against Morocco, and that its decision to welcome Ghali “flagrantly confirms its hostility”.
The Polisario wants an independent state in Western Sahara, a vast expanse of strategically valuable, mineral-rich desert that Morocco considers a sovereign part of its own territory. Rabat, which controls 80% of the disputed region, said it could grant autonomy to the area under Moroccan sovereignty.
The Polisario Front, which is politically backed by Algeria and controls 20% of Western Sahara, seeks full independence.
Polisario leader Ghali met President Kais Saied after arriving in Tunisia on Friday to attend the Japan-Africa TICAD investment conference.
Senegalese President Macky Sall, who currently chairs the African Union, is due to speak. The African Union recognizes Western Sahara as a member, but African states are divided over both the Polisario and the territory’s independence.
Tunisia has moved closer this year to Algeria, its most populous neighbor and on which it depends for energy, with Saied meeting Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune in July.
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In a few hours :
1) K. Saied receives B. Ghali, leader of the Polisario Front, breaking with Tunisia’s historical position towards the WS 🇪🇭.
2) Morocco summons its ambassador to Tunis.
3) The Tunisian presidency removes the photo of Saied’s meeting with Ghali from its Facebook page.
— Mohamed-Dhia Hammami – محمد ضياء الهمامي (@MedDhiaH) August 26, 2022
Neighbors, allies drawn into the conflict
The development came as French President Emmanuel Macron traveled to Polisario backer Algeria for a high-profile three-day visit aimed at restoring ties with the former French colony.
This is not the first time that Ghali’s travels have angered Moroccans.
In April 2021, he traveled to Spain for treatment for Covid-19, sparking a year-long diplomatic row between Spain and the North African kingdom.
It only ended when Madrid abandoned its decades-old position of neutrality over Western Sahara – a former Spanish colony – and backed a Moroccan plan for limited autonomy.
Recognizing its sovereignty over Western Sahara has long been Morocco’s most cherished foreign policy objective. In 2020, the United States led by Donald Trump recognized its sovereignty in exchange for Morocco accepting closer ties with Israel.
Since then, Morocco has taken a tougher stance on Western Sahara, withdrawing its ambassadors to Spain and Germany until they move closer to its position in the territory.
Algeria withdrew its own ambassador to Spain, a big customer of Algerian gas, after Madrid’s sudden reversal on Western Sahara.
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