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)
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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.


Singapore closing workplaces, schools in latest coronavirus measures

Updated 11 min 42 sec ago

Singapore closing workplaces, schools in latest coronavirus measures

  • Singapore’s infections, both imported and domestic, have been rising sharply in recent weeks and topped 1,000 this week
SINGAPORE: Singapore will close schools and most workplaces, except for essential services and key economic sectors, for a month, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Friday, as part of stricter measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Singapore’s infections, both imported and domestic, have been rising sharply in recent weeks and topped 1,000 this week. It reported its fifth death on Friday.
“We have decided that instead of tightening incrementally over the next few weeks, we should make a decisive move now, to pre-empt escalating infections,” Lee said in a speech.
Food establishments, markets and supermarkets, clinics, hospitals, utilities, transport and key banking services will remain open. The city-state will also move to full home-based learning in its schools and universities.
Lee urged everyone to stay home as much as possible and to avoid socialising with others beyond their own household.
He said the country had enough food supplies to last through this period and beyond.
The city-state will also announce additional support for households and businesses on Monday, he added.
The Southeast Asian nation has adopted some social distancing measures to curb the spread of the virus, but had let schools, offices and restaurants remain open.