By Abdu Abdul-Karim
Morocco, Saudi Arabia, UAE withdraw from the summit after participation of the so-called ‘Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic’
Delegations of Morocco, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates withdrew on Tuesday from the pan Arab-African summit which was set to be held on Wednesday in the Republic of Equatorial Guinea.
The three delegations said they were withdrawing due to the “insistence of the African Union to involve a delegation of the Western Sahara in the summit.”
On Monday, a meeting of the Arab and African foreign ministers had been held in the capital of Equatorial Guinea, Malabo, to prepare for the fourth Arab-African summit.
However, during Tuesday’s ministerial meeting, Morocco’s Minister for Moroccans Living Abroad and Migration Affairs Anis Birrou opposed the presence of a delegation of the so-called “Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic”, which was unilaterally declared by the Polisario Front in 1976.
Birrou then announced the withdrawal of Morocco from the summit. In turn, the Saudi ambassador to Egypt, Ahmed bin Abdulaziz al-Qattan, also announced his country’s withdrawal from the summit, confirming the move was “in solidarity with Morocco.”
The UAE’s Minister of Climate Change Thani Ahmed Al Zeyoudi also followed with a similar announcement, noting his country was joining “Morocco and Saudi Arabia in withdrawing from the summit.”
A diplomatic source, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to restrictions on talking to the media, said the withdrawal of the three delegations “may lead to the failure of the fourth Arab-African summit, which is set to kick off on Wednesday.”
The conflict over the Western Sahara — a territory in southern Morocco — began in 1975 following the end of the Spanish occupation of the North African region.
In 1976, the Polisario unilaterally declared the establishment of the SADR, which — although it lacked UN membership — was formally recognized by a number of countries.
Morocco, however, which continues to claim sovereignty over Western Sahara, has tried hard to convince these countries to withdraw their recognition of the SADR.
In 1984, Morocco withdrew its membership from the Organization of African Unity (now the African Union) to protest the OAU’s formal recognition of the Sahrawi Republic.
In 1991, a cease-fire deal was signed between the Polisario Front and Morocco.
While Rabat still insists on its right to the Western Sahara region, in recent years it has proposed a self-rule system under Moroccan sovereignty.
The Polisario, for its part, backed by Algeria, demands that a popular referendum be held in Western Sahara to decide the region’s political fate.