Britain should back Morocco’s autonomy plan- leading UK Defense Think Tank

Sir Simon Mayall, a retired British Army officer and a Middle East Adviser at the Ministry of Defense, urged his country to back Morocco’s autonomy plan as the “only” credible, realistic, and constructive solution to the “frozen conflict.”

In an op-ed on the UK’s leading defense and security Think Tank RUSI, Mayall highlighted the Sahara’s belonging to Morocco, a country that did not wait for colonialism to define it as a nation.

“While the history of the Western Sahara region is complex, centuries of economic and political ties have linked it with the Sultans of Morocco since well before the historically brief periods of French and Spanish colonization,” he said.

The conflict has remained “frozen” since an UN-brokered ceasefire in 1991. More than 20 years later, the UN Security Council concluded that a settlement plan based on a referendum was unworkable because a credible identification process was rendered impossible by the tribal and nomadic nature of the Saharan population, together with demographic changes over the previous 30 years, he said.

In the face of such a deadlock, Morocco put on the table an autonomy plan to settle the conflict once and for all in a way that is conducive to stability in a region beset with terrorism and insecurity, he said.

“This Moroccan initiative remains the only realistic, credible, forward-looking plan for the region that is on the table,” he said.

The autonomy initiative “is anchored in a commitment to a promising political and economic future for the population, with respect for the rule of law, democratic procedures and sustained development, and will be implemented on the basis of an open consultation in accordance with the UN Charter and the principle of self-determination,” Mayall added.

As Morocco presses ahead with development projects in the region, the US and other UK allies in Europe as well as most Arab and African states have backed the autonomy proposal “as the best way to bring a future of peace and prosperity to the population and an end to the dispute,” he said.

Mayall also referred to the untenable situation suffered by thousands of Sahrawi refugees in Algerian territory, where the host country has been arming and backing a “separatist” militia while offering no viable solution to end the conflict.

The status-quo would make Sahrawi youth an easy prey to recruitment by terrorist groups in an area where Iran and its Hezbollah proxy are actively heightening security threats, he said.

“A solution exists with the implementation of the Moroccan Autonomy Plan for Western Sahara, which offers the prospect of employment and prosperity, while the alternatives – stasis or a return to violence – offer nothing to the Sahrawis, while posing a serious risk to security and stability in the Maghreb, the Sahel and ultimately the whole Euro-Mediterranean region,” he said.

In this regard, the UK and Morocco with centuries-old ties should build on their strengthened post-Brexit economic ties with the UK called upon to take a stand pro-autonomy proposal, he said.

“The UK’s own principles with regard to self-determination and its overseas territories will in no way be compromised by UK government support for Morocco’s initiative. The UK should support Morocco’s Autonomy Plan for Western Sahara,” Mayall said.

About Khalid Al Mouahidi 4355 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