US says it backs Morocco autonomy plan for Western Sahara

A Sahrawi man rides a camel at the 35th anniversary celebrations of their independence movement for Western Sahara from Morocco, in Tifariti, southwestern Algeria. (Reuters)
Updated 29 June 2018

US says it backs Morocco autonomy plan for Western Sahara

  • US Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan: “We view Morocco’s autonomy plan for Western Sahara as one potential approach to addressing the situation.”
  • Morocco and the Polisario Front fought for control of Western Sahara from 1975 to 1991, before a UN-brokered cease-fire in the former Spanish colony.

RABAT: A top US diplomat on Friday backed Morocco’s plan for autonomy in the disputed Western Sahara, calling “serious and credible” during a visit to Rabat.
“We view Morocco’s autonomy plan for Western Sahara as one potential approach to addressing the situation” in the disputed territory, US Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan told reporters.
“It is a serious realistic credible plan that is able to satisfy the aspiration of the people of Western Sahara,” he said after talks with Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita.
Morocco and the Polisario Front fought for control of Western Sahara from 1975 to 1991, with Rabat taking over the desert territory before a UN-brokered cease-fire in the former Spanish colony.
Rabat considers Western Sahara is an integral part of the kingdom and has proposed autonomy for the resource-rich territory but the Polisario insists on a UN referendum on independence.
Diplomatic efforts to end the conflict have been deadlocked since the last round of UN-sponsored talks in 2008.
Sullivan’s visit coincides with a regional tour of the UN envoy for Western Sahara, Horst Koehler, to push for new talks between Morocco and the Polisario.
Morocco maintains that negotiations on a settlement should focus on its proposal for autonomy.
Sullivan hailed Morocco as one of Washington’s “oldest and closest ally anywhere in the world” and said his government continues to work with Rabat to find a solution to the dispute.
“We support the UN diplomatic process and effort to find a mutual acceptable political solution to end the conflict that provides for self-determination to the people of Western Sahara, but the most important is our dialogue with the government of Morocco,” he said.


FBI: Saudi shooter believed to have acted alone in US Navy base attack

Updated 09 December 2019

FBI: Saudi shooter believed to have acted alone in US Navy base attack

  • Special agent Rachel Rojas thanked Saudi Arabia for its cooperation in the investigation
  • Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani was shot dead after he opened fire and killed three people at the base in Florida

PENSACOLA: Investigators believe a Saudi Air Force lieutenant acted alone on Friday when he killed three people and wounded eight at a US Navy base in Pensacola, Florida before being fatally shot by police, the FBI said on Sunday.
Rachel Rojas, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Jacksonville office, said the shooter used a Glock model 45 9mm handgun that he had purchased legally in Florida.
“We currently assess there was one gunman who perpetrated this attack and no arrests have been made in this case,” Rojas, the lead investigator on the case, said at a news conference.
“We are looking very hard at uncovering his motive and I would ask for patience so we can get this right,” she said.
Authorities confirmed the suspect was a member of the Royal Saudi Air Force who was on the base as part of a US Navy training program designed to foster links with foreign allies.
The FBI identified him as Second Lt. Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, 21.
A sheriff’s deputy fatally shot the gunman, authorities said, ending the second deadly attack at a US military base within a week. Within hours, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman had called US President Donald Trump to extend his condolences and pledge the Kingdom’s support in the investigation.
Rojas said there were several Saudi students who were close to the shooter and are cooperating with investigators.
“Their Saudi commanding officer has restricted them to base, and the Saudi government has pledged to fully cooperate with our investigation,” she said. “I thank the kingdom for their pledge of full and complete cooperation.”

Meanwhile, a second victim was identified as Airman Mohammed Sameh Haitham, 19, of St. Petersburg, Florida, who joined the Navy after graduating from high school last year, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
Haitham's mother, Evelyn Brady, herself a Navy veteran, said the commander of her son's school called her and told her Haitham had tried to stop the shooter.