Western Sahara Dispute and Algeria-Spain ties

On June 8, 2022 Algeria announced to suspend its treaty of “friendship, good neighbourliness, and co-operation”, that it signed with Spain 20 years ago.

Highlights

  • This move has proved beneficial for both the countries. It came after Spain decided to shifting its position regarding Western Sahara dispute.
  • This deal was signed in 2002, for promoting dialogue and cooperation on economic, political, financial, defence and education issues.

About Western Sahara dispute

  • The Western Sahara dispute was started in 1884, with colonisation of this region by Spain. In 1975, Spain decided to withdraw from Western Sahara. following this, the region descended into a conflict between Morocco, Mauritania and Polisario Front. All of them were trying to control the region.
  • Polisario Front decided to establish Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) in Western Sahara. However, SADR did not get Western recognition.
  • In 1975, this matter came to International Court of Justice. Court decided that, neither Morocco nor Mauritania could claim sovereignty on Western Sahara region. Thus, it called for decolonization of the region.

How did Morocco react?

Moroccan Sultan did not withstand with the decision of ICJ and started “Green March” towards Western Sahara. It caused an influx of thousands of Moroccans in this region. Polisario Front kept fighting with Morocco and Mauritania. In 1979, Polisario Front signed a ceasefire with Mauritania. However, fighting with Morocco continued. It ended when Polisario Front and Morocco agreed to UN-proposed peace deal, in 1991,

Control of Morocco over Western Sahara

After the 1991 Agreement, Morocco controls 80 per cent of the Western Sahara region while Polisario Front-led SADR is operating primarily from refugee camps in Algeria and eastern part of the Western Sahara.

Why has Spain changed its stand?

Spain has now changed its position to support UN-sponsored referendum to settle the decolonization in region. The country considers autonomy initiative as basis, realistic and credible to resolve the dispute. Autonomy initiative was presented by Morocco in 2007.

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