First foreign diplomatic post opens in Western Sahara

A rocket is pictured near an earth wall that separates areas controlled by Morocco and the Polisario Front in Western Sahara. (Reuters)
Short Url
Updated 18 December 2019

First foreign diplomatic post opens in Western Sahara

  • For Rabat, the tiny African island nation inaugurating an office in the city of Laayoune supports Moroccan claims to Western Sahara
  • The Polisario Front, an Algeria-backed independence movement, insists on a referendum on full independence

RABAT: Comoros opened a consulate Wednesday in Western Sahara, the first foreign diplomatic post to open in the Moroccan-controlled part of the former Spanish territory, an official said.
For Rabat, the tiny African island nation inaugurating an office in the city of Laayoune represented “a supreme expression” of Moroccan claims to Western Sahara, a Moroccan diplomatic source told AFP.
The kingdom maintains that Western Sahara, mostly under Morocco’s control, is an integral part of its territory. The Polisario Front campaigns for its independence.
The Gambia also plans to open a consulate in the Western Saharan port city of Dakhla, according to Moroccan state news agency MAP.
The opening “will take place as soon as possible,” Gambian Foreign Minister Mamadou Tangara said at a recent Organization of Islamic Cooperation meeting in Rabat, according to MAP.
The United Nations refers to the vast desert territory as a non-self-governing territory and the international community has long advocated a referendum to decide its status.
The Polisario Front, an Algeria-backed independence movement, insists on a referendum on full independence, while Morocco has instead offered autonomy.
After a long break, a UN-led dialogue between Morocco, the Polisario Front, Algeria and Mauritania resumed in Switzerland in December 2018, followed by a second round in March, but no breakthrough was made.
Determined to “protect its supreme interests,” Morocco is preparing laws establishing jurisdiction over territorial waters stretching “from Tangiers to Lagouira” on the border with Mauritania, according to MAP.
Polisario supporters claim that 92 percent of Moroccan fishing is done in “pillaged” Western Saharan waters.


Ukraine to press for plane crash black boxes as Iran minister visits

Updated 20 January 2020

Ukraine to press for plane crash black boxes as Iran minister visits

  • Ukraine’s foreign minister said returning the black boxes would show that Iran wanted an unbiased investigation of the crash
  • The plane disaster has heightened international pressure on Iran

KIEV: Ukraine will press Iran to hand over the black boxes from the crash of a Ukrainian passenger plane at a meeting with a visiting Iranian delegation on Monday, Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko told reporters.
Ukraine would convey the message to visiting Minister of Roads and Urban Development Mohammad Eslami, that returning the black boxes would show that Iran wanted an unbiased investigation of the crash, Prystaiko said.
“His main task is to apologize and acknowledge what happened. We hope that we can go a little further than just political discussions and discuss practical problems. Among them in particular is the return of the black boxes,” Prystaiko said.
Iran had said on Sunday it was trying to analyze the black boxes from the airliner its military shot down this month, denying an earlier report it would hand them to Ukraine. All 176 aboard the flight died.
“At first they stated that they were handing them over, then the same person stated that they were not handing them over. This created some misunderstanding in Ukraine and we were starting to be asked: are they being handed over or not?“
Many of those killed had were Iranians with dual citizenship, but Iran does not recognize dual nationality and on Monday said it would treat the victims as Iranian nationals.
Canada, which had 57 citizens on the flight, said there were still no firm plans for downloading the recorders. Ottawa and other capitals have called for the black boxes to be sent abroad.
The Jan. 8 plane disaster has heightened international pressure on Iran as it grapples with a long-running dispute with the United States over its nuclear program and its influence in the region that briefly erupted into open conflict this month.
The Iranian military has said it downed Ukraine International Airlines flight 752 in error in the aftermath of tit-for-tat strikes by the United States and Iran. But authorities delayed admitting this, prompting days of protests on Iran’s streets.
Ukraine held a ceremony at Kiev’s Boryspil airport on Sunday as the bodies of 11 citizens, including nine crew, were returned to Ukraine.