The United States on Sunday began the process of establishing a consulate in Western Sahara — a disputed and divided former Spanish colony.
The territory is now recognised by Washington as under Morrocan sovereignty in exchange for Rabat normalising ties with Israel.
This is in spite of the decades-long tensions within the region with the pro-independence Polisario Front.
Nasser Bourati, Morocco’s Foreign Minister, shared a few words at the occasion.
“Mr Schenker is the first US official to visit Western Sahara. This is a very important event. This confirms the results of the phone call between his Highness Mohammed VI and the US President on December 10.”
Not for the USA to Recognise
United Nations peacekeepers in Western Sahara are mandated to organise a referendum on self-determination for the region, and the organisation insists its position is “unchanged” in spite of Washington’s most recent moves.
The Algerian-backed Polisario Front fought a war for independence from 1975 to 1991 and controls about one-fifth of the desert territory.
Some 20 countries — mostly African and Arab nations, have already opened diplomatic offices in the Moroccan-held area.
However, Polisario considers such moves to be violations of international law.