Outgoing US President Donald Trump on 10 December, on Human Rights Day, recognised Morocco's untenable claim to occupied Western Sahara, in return for Morocco normalising relations with Israel. Find the proclamation here.
The statement also stipulates that "the United States will encourage economic and social development with Morocco, including in the Western Sahara territory, and to that end will open a consulate in the Western Sahara territory, in Dakhla, to promote economic and business opportunities for the region."
The town of Dakhla is the location where a US bitoin mining company will establish a large energy project next year. Some agriculture products are allegedly also exported from the unsustainable greenhouses in the desert near Dakhla to North America.
"It is not for Donald Trump to decide the status of Western Sahara. International law has determined that this is the prerogative of the people of Western Sahara", says Sylvia Valentin, Chair of WSRW. "US recognition of Morocco's illegal occupation of Western Sahara does not make the occupation legal."
In response to the US move, the spokesperson of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres noted in a press briefing today that "Our stand on Western Sahara is unchanged".
The move marks a departure from longstanding US policy, which did not formally recognise Morocco's claim to the territory.
The US Trade Representative stated for instance in 2004 that the US-Morocco Free Trade Agreement does not include Western Sahara, since "The United States [...] do not recognize Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara"
Morocco occupies the major part of its neighbouring country, Western Sahara. Entering into business deals with Moroccan companies or authorities in the occupied territories gives an impression of political legitimacy to the occupation. It also gives job opportunities to Moroccan settlers and income to the Moroccan government. Western Sahara Resource Watch demands foreign companies leave Western Sahara until a solution to the conflict is found.
It's not easy keeping up with all the different legal proceedings relating to Western Sahara. For the sake of clarity, here's an overview of the five different cases at the Court of Justice of the European Union.