US delegation visits Laayoune, Dakhla in Moroccan Sahara

A month after the American recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over its southern provinces, two high-ranking US diplomats visited Laayoune and Dakhla this weekend.

David Schenker, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, and US ambassador in Rabat David T -Fischer, have reaffirmed through the visits American support to the Moroccanness of the Sahara and inspected the premises to host the US consulate in the region, the first by a western country.

Actually, since the start of the Sahara conflict, never has a permanent member of the UN Security Council been so involved in consolidating Morocco’s position on the legitimacy of its cause.

The US delegation also held a meeting with Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita that discussed bilateral cooperation as well as regional issues such as the situation in Libya and the Sahel.

During the meeting that was attended by several local and regional authorities, David Schenker underlined the milestone recognition of Morocco’s sovereignty over the Sahara proclaimed on Dec.10, pointing out that these developments “have been made possible by King Mohammed VI’s leadership in advancing a bold and far-reaching reform agenda over the past two decades.

“None of the successes achieved would have been possible without the King’s leadership and support for peace in the Middle East, Africa’s stability and development, as well as regional security,” he said.

He also highlighted Morocco’s efforts to “promote religious tolerance and harmony” which are “a model to follow in the region”, mentioning in this regard “the Kingdom’s historic tradition of protecting its Jewish community” as well as the signing of the Marrakech Declaration on the Rights of Religious Minorities in the Islamic World.

“The relationship (between the two countries) is stronger than ever and the best is yet to come,” he added.

The American consulate in Dakhla will have a mainly economic objective, as the United States has expressed great interest in investing in this coastal region, mainly in tourism but also in sectors such as energy.

The American Consulate, meant to promote economic and business opportunities in the region and beyond in Africa, will host an office for the “Africa Prosperity” initiative in order to facilitate the access of American investors to the southern regions. The move falls within the framework of Morocco’s vision seeking to make of the Sahara a gateway to Africa for international investors, including from the United States.

In this connection, David Schenker and David T-Fisher affirmed that their unprecedented visit in this region was historic and would open up many horizons in terms of economic cooperation between Morocco and the United States.

While recalling that their country supports Morocco’s autonomy proposal as the only way to solve the Sahara issue, the two diplomats said that the recent formal American recognition would make it possible to move things forward and to speed up the settlement of a conflict that has dragged on for 45 years.

Ambassador David T-Fischer who described his visit and that of David Schenker as the materialization of the American recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over the Sahara said “It was only after having visited Laayoune and Dakhla that we understood why this region was dear to the hearts of Moroccans.”

He affirmed that American companies will soon be present in these provinces in force to contribute to their economic development.

For his part, the Moroccan Foreign Minister thanked the American administration for having corrected all the truncated maps of the Kingdom in its various diplomatic representations across the world.

Like the US officials, he noted that the American recognition will help transform the entire southern region on the political, economic, security and human levels.

The opening of the US consulate is the twentieth opening of a diplomatic representation in Laâyoune and Dakhla in just one year, the minister explained.

“We believe that the growing support of the international community will make it possible to resolve very quickly the Sahara conflict which has divided the Maghreb for 45 years”, said Bourita, adding that the increasing number of consular representations in Dakhla and Laâyoune would make of the region a genuine diplomatic hub for Africa.

Earlier Sunday, the US officials launched an economic development project for the region dubbed “Dakhla Connect”.

The “Dakhla Connect” portal, intended to promote investments in the region, will require a one-million-dollar funding to be supported by the DFC, the US development bank.

On Saturday, the US delegation made a trip to the capital city of the Sahara, Laayoune, where it visited the diplomatic quarter which hosts the consulates of several countries as well as the headquarters of the United Nations mission in the Sahara (Minurso).

The delegation also took part in the launch ceremony of the center for education through sport “TIBU Laâyoune Center”, realized by the US Embassy in Morocco. The center aims to promote youths’ education, their social inclusion, and their human development through basketball.

During their trip to Dakhla, the US Assistant Secretary of State David Schenker, the Ambassador David Fisher and his spouse were all donning the traditional Sahraoui garments, paying thus tribute to Moroccan diversity and culture.

About Khalid Al Mouahidi 3043 Articles
Khalid Al Mouahidi : A binational from the US and Morocco, Khalid El Mouahidi has worked for several american companies in the Maghreb Region and is currently based in Casablanca, where he is doing consulting jobs for major international companies . Khalid writes analytical pieces about economic ties between the Maghreb and the Mena Region, where he has an extensive network