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A Ministerial Conference in Support of the Autonomy Initiative under Morocco’s Sovereignty was held on Friday 15 January, 2021, at the invitation of the United States and Morocco. The Conference was co-chaired by US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Schenker and Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita.


In his opening remarks, David Schenker noted that the US recognition of Morocco’s sovereignty over its Sahara is a clear statement that the Autonomy Plan suggested by Morocco in 2007 is the only basis for a just and lasting solution to the conflict. Schenker also called on the international community to back the autonomy plan as “the only credible and realistic basis for negotiations.”


Representatives of 42 countries, including 27 ministers, expressed during the conference their strong support for the Moroccan initiative as the only basis for a just and lasting solution to the Sahara regional dispute.


Speaking at the same event, foreign ministers of the UAE, Bahrain, Gambia, Guinea, Gabon, Zambia, Haiti, Guinee, Togo, Guatemala, Antigua and Barbuda firmly backed Morocco’s territorial integrity and to the Autonomy Plan as the only political solution to the Sahara issue that would contribute to regional peace and stability.


Other countries that attended the Conference in support of the Autonomy Plan as the sole political solution are Comoros, Guinea Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Malawi, Liberia, Sao Tome and Principe, Benin, Saint Lucia, the Dominican Republic, Barbados, Jamaica, Maldives, Salvador, Senegal, Saudi Arabia, Cote d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Eswatini, DRC, Jordan, Oman, France, Egypt, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Kuwait, Yemen, Central African Republic, Burundi and Burkina Faso.


Most participants recalled the Proclamation of the United States of America which reaffirmed support for Morocco’s Autonomy Plan as serious, credible, and realistic and as the only basis for a just and lasting solution to the dispute. They also underlined that the US Presidential Proclamation provides guidance and strengthen the international consensus in support of the UN-exclusive political process.


HE Mr. Abdellatif ben Rashid Al Zayani, thanked during his speech the Kingdom of Morocco and the USA for the event which “demonstrates the wide international support of the sovereignty of Morocco over its Sahara.” and noted that this support was “clearly expressed during Al-Ula Summit”.


His Highness Sheikh Abdullah Ben Zayed Al Nahyan said that “The UAE expresses its firm support for the sovereignty of Morocco over its Sahara. To substantiate this support, the UAE opened a consulate this year in Laayoun. The UAE also welcomes the decision of the United States to open a consulate in the Moroccan Sahara”.

MFAs of Gabon and Zambia, HE Mr. Pacome Moubelet-Boubeya and HE Mr. Joseph Malanji respectively hailed the developments projects led by HM the King in the southern region of Morocco and reiterated their “full support of the Kingdom’s territorial integrity.”


The MFA of Antigua and Barbuda, Mr. Paul Chet Greene noted that “The Autonomy Plan is the only realistic solution to end this regional conflict.” and added that “This solution will bring peace and stability to the whole Maghreb region.”


MFAs of Gambia and Togo, HE Mr. Mamadou Tangara and HE Mr. Robert Dussey stressed that Morocco’s Autonomy Initiative is the “right initiative for the African countries and for the whole region”. HE Mr. Mamadou Tangara noted during his speech that “Gambia was the first country to open a consulate in the Moroccan Sahara” an act that translates clearly its full support of the Moroccan territorial integrity.


Mr. Christophe Farnaud, Director of the North Africa and Middle East Department at Quai d’Orsay, said that “France has long supported the Autonomy plan as a realistic and serious basis for negotiations under the aegis of the UN.”


Participants also welcomed the development endeavors launched in the region in the framework of Morocco’s “New Development Model for the Southern Provinces.” led by His Majesty the King.
The new Development Model for the Southern Provinces, noted many participant, is a concrete step that paves the way for economic and security cooperation in the Maghreb region as well as African stability and prosperity.


The Conference also highlighted the decision of 20 countries to open Consulates in the cities of Laayoune and Dakhla, considering that such steps will promote economic and business opportunities for the region, strengthen the vocation of the Sahara region as an economic hub for the entire continent and advance progress towards reaching a long-awaited final political solution to this dispute.
At the conclusion of their speeches, all participant countries reiterated their commitment to continue their advocacy for a solution, using the Autonomy Plan as the sole framework for resolving the Sahara regional dispute.


About the Autonomy Initiative:

  • In response to the UN Security Council calls to the parties in order to end the political deadlock regarding the Sahara issue, Morocco presented on April 11th 2007 the “Moroccan Initiative for Negotiating an Autonomy Status for the Sahara Region” to the UN Secretary-General. This Initiative is the result of a large consultative process led at the national, regional and international levels.
  • Through this Initiative, Morocco guarantees to the populations of the region to democratically run their affairs through legislative, executive and legal bodies. The populations will be endowed with financial resources in order to contribute to the development of the region in all fields and participate actively in boosting the economy and reviving the cultural and social life, not only in the Sahara region but throughout all Morocco.
  • Based on compromise, this Initiative is in full conformity with the International Law, the UN Charter and the UN Resolutions of both the General Assembly and the Security Council as well as with the right to self-determination. In fact, the Autonomy Status of the Moroccan Sahara region will be negotiated and submitted to the concerned populations for consultation, as stated in the article 27 of the Moroccan Autonomy Initiative.
  • The Moroccan Autonomy Initiative has been deemed as “serious and credible” in all 17 resolutions adopted by the Security Council since 2007. As a third way between pure integration and independence, it is the only solution that satisfies the parameters laid out in Security Council resolution 2548 : A realistic, practicable, and enduring political solution that rests on compromise.