/ languages

Choisir langue

Western Sahara / Maghreb

Western Sahara issue disrupts summit

Article published on the 2008-04-27 Latest update 2008-04-27 10:53 TU

Aerial view of sand berm erected by Morocco in Western Sahara(Photo: AFP)

Aerial view of sand berm erected by Morocco in Western Sahara
(Photo: AFP)

Algerian and Moroccan government ministers clashed on Sunday at a summit aimed at starting Maghreb economic cooperation as the issue of the Western Sahara entered the discussions. The Arab Maghreb Union met for the first time since 1994, after the topic of Western Sahara derailed previous proceedings.

The summit includes Tunisia, Libya and Mauritania and was supposed to mark the anniversary of a conference in Tangiers that first called for a Maghreb union. The current union was established in 1989.

Moroccan state minister and socialist leader Mohamed El Yazghi called on Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika "to support the Moroccan plan to drag the (Western) Sahara case out of its impasse."

Algerian Prime Minister Abdelaziz Belkhadem responded, saying that Algiers had backed "just causes" and independence movements in Mozambique, Angola "and even within its neighbours," a veiled reference to the Frente Polisario in the Western Sahara, the disputed area that borders Morocco and Algeria to the south.

Belkhadem's comments were interrupted by people chanting "Moroccan Sahara", causing Moroccan Prime Minister Abbas El Fassi to step in.

After occupying the area for over 100 years, Spain withdrew in 1975, and Morocco promptly stepped in. This action started a war with the Saharawi people's representatives, the Frente Polisario. A UN-brokered ceasefire was agreed to in 1991, but both sides have been at an impasse after an agreed-to self-determination referendum never came to fruition.