Morocco is a moderate Arab state which maintains close relations with Europe and the United States. It is a member of the United Nations and belongs to the Arab League, Arab Maghreb Union (UMA), Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), INTELSAT, and the Non-Aligned Movement. King Mohamed is the chairman of the OIC's Al-Qods (Jerusalem) committee.
Morocco is quite active in Maghreb, Arab, and African affairs. It supports the search for peace in the Middle East, encouraging Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and urging moderation on both sides. In 1986, then King Hassan II took the daring step of inviting then-Israeli Prime Minister Peres for talks, becoming only the second Arab leader to host an Israeli leader. Following the September 1993 signing of the Israeli-Palestinian Declaration of Principles , Morocco accelerated its economic ties and political contacts with Israel. In September 1994, Morocco and Israel announced the opening of bilateral liaison offices. These offices were closed in 2000 following sustained Israeli-Palestinian violence.
Morocco maintains close relations with Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf states, which have provided Morocco with substantial amounts of financial assistance. Morocco was the first Arab state to condemn Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and sent troops to help defend Saudi Arabia. Morocco also was among the first Arab and Islamic states to denounce the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attacks in the United States and declare solidarity with the American people in the war against terrorism. Although no longer a member of the OAU, Morocco remains involved in Africa. It has contributed to UN peacekeeping efforts on the continent.
The major issue in Morocco's foreign relations is its claim to Western Sahara. As a result of Algeria's continued support for the Polisario Front in the dispute over Western Sahara, relations between Morocco and Algeria have remained strained over the past several decades.
The issue of sovereignty over Western Sahara remains unresolved. The territory--an area of wasteland and desert bordering the Atlantic Ocean between Mauritania and Morocco--is contested by Morocco and the Polisario (an independence movement based in the region of Tindouf, Algeria). Morocco's claim to sovereignty over the Western Sahara is based largely on an historical argument of traditional loyalty of the Sahrawi tribal leaders to the Moroccan sultan as spiritual leader and ruler. The Polisario claims to represent the aspirations of the Western Saharan inhabitants for independence. Algeria claims none of the territory for itself but maintains that Sahrawis should determine the territory's future status.
From 1904 until 1975, Spain occupied the entire territory, which is divided into a northern portion, the Saguia el-Hamra, and a southern two-thirds, known as Rio de Oro. In 1969, the Polisario Front (Popular Front for the Liberation of the Saguia el Hamra and Rio de Oro) formed to combat the occupation of the territory. In November 1975, King Hassan mobilized 350,000 unarmed Moroccan citizens in what came to be known as the "Green March" into Western Sahara. The march was designed to both demonstrate and strengthen Moroccan claims to the territory. On November 14, Spain, Morocco, and Mauritania announced a tripartite agreement for an interim administration under which Spain agreed to share administrative authority with Morocco and Mauritania, leaving aside the question of sovereignty. With the establishment of a Moroccan and Mauritanian presence throughout the territory, however, Spain's role in the administration of the Western Sahara ceased altogether.
After a period of hostilities, Mauritania withdrew from the territory in 1979 and signed a peace treaty with the Polisario relinquishing all claims to the territory. Moroccan troops occupied the region vacated by Mauritania and later proclaimed the territory reintegrated into Morocco. Morocco subsequently built the Moroccan Wall, a fortified berm around three-fourths of Western Sahara and has since asserted administrative control over the territory.
At the Organization of African Unity (OAU) summit in June 1981, King Hassan announced his willingness to hold a referendum in the Western Sahara. Subsequent meetings of an OAU Implementation Committee proposed a cease-fire, a UN peacekeeping force, and an interim administration to assist with an OAU-UN-supervised referendum on the issue of independence or annexation. In 1984, the OAU seated a delegation of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), the shadow government of the Polisario; Morocco, consequently, withdrew from the OAU.
In 1988, Moroccan and Polisario representatives agreed on a UN peace plan. A UN-brokered cease-fire and settlement plan went into effect on September 6, 1991. Implementation of the settlement plan, which calls for a popular referendum to determine the territory's final status (integration into Morocco or independence), has been repeatedly postponed because of differences between the parties. The UN continues to explore with the parties ways of arriving at a mutually agreed political settlement.
The United States has consistently supported the cease-fire and the UN's efforts at finding a peaceful settlement. While recognizing Morocco's administrative control of Western Sahara, the United States has not endorsed Morocco's claim of sovereignty.
Other international disputes
Spain controls five places of sovereignty (plazas de soberanía) on and off the coast of Morocco - the coastal enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla which Morocco contests, as well as the islands of Peñón de Alhucemas, Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera, and Islas Chafarinas.
Illicit producer of hashish; trafficking on the increase for both domestic and international drug markets; shipments of hashish mostly directed to Western Europe; transit point for cocaine from South America destined for Western Europe.
Last updated: 08-18-2005 17:06:50