Algeria denounces Israeli recognition of Western Sahara

Algerian-backed Polisario Front claims right to self-determination over disputed territory that Israel recognized this week as being under Moroccan sovereignty

A Moroccan army vehicle drives past car wreckage in Guerguerat, in Western Sahara, on November 24, 2020, after an intervention of the royal Moroccan armed forces in the area. (Fadel Senna/AFP/File)
A Moroccan army vehicle drives past car wreckage in Guerguerat, in Western Sahara, on November 24, 2020, after an intervention of the royal Moroccan armed forces in the area. (Fadel Senna/AFP/File)

ALGIERS, Algeria – Algeria on Thursday denounced Israel’s backing of Morocco’s “claimed sovereignty” over the disputed Western Sahara region as a “flagrant violation” of international law.

The Western Sahara conflict pits Morocco against Sahrawi separatists of the Algiers-backed Polisario Front.

The 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.

On Monday, the royal cabinet in Rabat said Israel had decided to “recognize Morocco’s sovereignty” over the mineral-rich desert region, citing a letter from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The decision “constitutes a flagrant violation of international law, UN Security Council decisions and General Assembly resolutions on the Western Sahara question,” the foreign ministry in Algiers said in a statement.

It “shows agreement between the occupiers’ policies and their complicity in violating international law,” and encroaches upon the “legitimate right of the Palestinian people to establish their independent state with Al-Quds [Jerusalem] as its capital and of the Sahrawi people to self-determination.”

Brahim Ghali, head of the Polisario Front and the self-declared Sahrawi Democratic Arab Republic, gives a speech to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Polisario Front in the Aoussered camp, Algeria, Saturday, May 20, 2023. (AP Photo/Guidoum Fateh)

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

The Polisario continues to demand a UN-supervised referendum on self-determination, which was agreed upon in a 1991 ceasefire accord but has still not taken place.

On Wednesday, the Polisario slammed Israel’s decision as “null and void” and said it would “only reinforce the determination of the Sahrawi people to pursue their national struggle on several fronts.”

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

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