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Sahara : James Baker criticizes the US decision but welcomes normalization with Israel

James Baker, the former UN special envoy to Western Sahara. / DR
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The former UN special envoy to Western Sahara James Baker expressed his opposition to the decision of the US President Donald Trump, who recognized Morocco’s sovereignty over the territory.

In an opinion article published by the Washington Post, the former diplomat who served as U.S. Secretary of State from 1989 and 1992 described the move as a «serious blow to diplomacy and international law».

«This rash move disguised as diplomacy will contribute to the existing deadlock in resolving the long-standing conflict between Morocco and the people of Western Sahara over the status of that territory. Further, it threatens to complicate our relations with Algeria, an important strategic partner, and has negative consequences on the overall situation in North Africa», he added.

On the other hand, James Baker welcomed the normalization of relations between Morocco and Israel, recalling that «the Abraham Accords and efforts to widen them are, of course, laudable ways to promote peace in the Middle East by establishing formal relations between Israel and Arab countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and now Morocco, especially if they would help in addressing the Palestinian dimension».

The former UN envoy explains, however, «Any success in this effort should never come at the price of abandoning the United States’ commitment to self-determination, the bedrock principle on which our country was founded and to which it should remain faithful».  

«We should not simply turn our backs on the people of Western Sahara as we try to promote better relations between Israel and her Arab neighbors. Sadly, this cynical decision to recognize Morocco’s claim of sovereignty over Western Sahara in return for Morocco’s pledge to establish formal relations with Israel did just that».

James baker

For the former diplomat, «the Trump administration’s recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara is a major and unfortunate change in long-standing U.S. policy under both Democrat and Republican administrations», he added.

For the record, the former special envoy of the UN Secretary General to Western Sahara, Christopher Ross, criticized him earlier this week the American decision.

Like their successor Horst Kohler, James Baker and Christopher Ross have resigned from their posts as special envoys to Western Sahara.