- Morocco is angry at South African support for Western Sahara independence.
- President Cyril Ramaphosa expressed support for the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic.
- Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita voewed his country would defend Western Sahara as its territory.
Morocco on Thursday blasted what it called Pretoria’s “gesticulations and agitations” over the disputed territory of Western Sahara, in reaction to the South African president backing the region’s independence.
On Tuesday President Cyril Ramaphosa offered his government’s “unapologetic” backing for the partially recognised Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) in Western Sahara.
The disputed status of Western Sahara – a former Spanish colony considered a “non-self-governing territory” by the United Nations – has pitted Morocco against the Algeria-backed pro-independence Polisario Front since the 1970s.
The “gesticulations and agitations” of South Africa reflect its “inability to act on the issue”, Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita said.
“The fact that a red rag or carpet has been laid out does not alter the situation, but rather expresses the inability to influence it,” Bourita insisted during a press briefing in Rabat with his Belgian counterpart Hadja Lahbib.
Bourita accused South Africa of being on the wrong side of history.
The Polisario Front is campaigning for an independent state in the Western Sahara, a vast stretch of phosphate-rich desert that was controlled by Spain between 1884 and 1975.
The Polisario proclaimed the SADR in 1976, placing it in conflict with Morocco, which considers the Western Sahara to be part of its own territory.
Rabat controls nearly 80% of the territory and is pushing for autonomy under its sovereignty.
The international community has long backed a referendum to be held to decide the territory’s status.
The SADR is a member of the African Union and says it has been recognised by more than 80 countries.
The dynamics of the long-simmering conflict changed in 2020 when then US president Donald Trump recognised Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara in exchange for the kingdom’s normalisation of relations with Israel.
On Tuesday Ramaphosa said: “We are concerned about the silence that persists in the world about the struggle for self-determination for the people of Western Sahara.”
But Bourita stressed that “Morocco will continue to defend its interests and use all the means at its disposal.”