Wide Angle

British parliament debates recognition of Moroccan Sahara

British Members of Parliament (MPs) who support the Polisario Front actively participated in a debate on London's recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara.

Conservative MP Daniel Kawczynski. / Ph. DR
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The UK House of Commons debated, on Wednesday May 8th, the issue of London's recognition of the Moroccan Sahara. Conservative MP Daniel Kawczynski initiated the meeting, urging the government to recognize Western Sahara's sovereignty as part of Morocco.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's government was represented by Foreign Office Minister David Rutley. Notably, the session wasn't solely in favor of Morocco's position, with a strong presence of Polisario supporters.

Kawczynski noted that «the debate is on pressing the British Government finally to recognize the sovereignty of Western Sahara as part of the Kingdom of Morocco. Morocco, of course, is our second oldest ally, a reliable partner and one that seeks our support in recognizing Western Sahara as a part of the kingdom». «The United States of America and Israel, two of our most important allies, have recognized the sovereignty of Western Sahara as Moroccan», he stressed.

He further argued that «Spain—the former colonial power in Western Sahara—France, the Netherlands, Germany and others, all recognise that the autonomy proposals that the Moroccan Government are putting forward for Western Sahara are the best option going forward».

Presenting Morocco's perspective, Kawczynski described it as a «thriving democracy» actively working to curb illegal migration to Europe. «When I went to Morocco, I saw the massive effort to stem the flow of illegal migration to Europe. I met many officials and heard how they have managed to prevent over 300,000 illegal crossings into the Spanish enclave of Ceuta and the Canary Islands», he added.

Pro-Polisario MPs respond

Pro-Polisario MPs actively challenged Kawczynski's statements. Patrick Grady (SNP) accused him of accepting Moroccan embassy-funded trips. «His trip was paid for by the Moroccan embassy to the United Kingdom, was it not? And it is recorded in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests, is it not?», he asked.

On the other hand, James Corbyn (Labour) decried the neglect of the «issue of the legality of Morocco’s occupation of the Western Sahara». Corbyn, a former Labour leader, called for the UK to «recognize the right of the people of Western Sahara to decide their own future», while Fabian Hamilton (Labour) advocated for increased aid to the Polisario. «The UN provides assistance to some 90,000 refugees. The conditions of those refugees are deplorable; others have made that comment, and it is only right that I do the same», he claimed.

Government's stance

Foreign Office Minister David Rutley emphasized the UK's «partnership» with Morocco but reiterated the government's commitment to «assist the parties to achieve a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution, based on compromise, which will provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara».

For the record, Rutley's previous statements in April highlight that commercial activities in Western Sahara respecting Sahrawi interests are not considered illegal by the government.

On 30th January Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita received the Conservative MP Daniel Kawczynski in Rabat. The debate coincides with increased activity from Polisario supporters in Parliament, who have submitted written questions on the Sahara issue as recently as May 1st.

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