Sahara: Autonomy initiative, most credible and realistic option at hand – experts

The Moroccan autonomy initiative for the Sahara, compared to similar foreign experiences, was on Wednesday at the focus of a meeting at the UN headquarters in Geneva. The meeting, organized by Morocco’s Permanent Mission to the UN in Geneva, was moderated by several African and European experts and attended by diplomats and representatives of NGOs from various backgrounds.

Opening this panel, the Chargé d’Affaires of the Moroccan mission, Hassan Boukili, pointed out that in several cases around the world, autonomy has resolved similar territorial disputes by reconciling respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity and autonomous management of local affairs in a spirit of national solidarity.

The Moroccan proposal is part of a democratic and modern society project, based on the rule of law, individual and collective freedoms, and economic and social development, while respecting local specificities, he explained.

Other speakers underscored that the Moroccan autonomy initiative, which takes the form of self-determination, is by far the most credible and realistic option at hand, after the UN gave up the referendum option deemed inapplicable on the ground.

For Charles Amegan, professor of international relations at the University of Paris, this proposal was the synthesis of a multitude of contributions resulting from a participatory and inclusive consultation process at a threefold level: local, national, and international.

Bringing up the security situation in the Sahel-Sahara region, the speaker warned of the emergence of new connections between armed elements of the Polisario, terrorists of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and fighters of Daech extremist group, settled in the Sahel and Libya.

Another expert from the Swiss Institute for International Studies, Eric Dejila, stressed that the international context calls for fair and equitable solutions to the territorial conflict, insisting that the autonomy solution offers the international community a means to eradicate the scourge of terrorism and the mafia networks that are thriving in this Sahel-Sahara region.

The peaceful settlement of the territorial dispute over the Sahara would revive the building up of a democratic, stable and solid Maghreb, he argued.

Economic integration will enable this geostrategic bloc to establish itself as a negotiating force and as an interlocutor respected by its various economic partners throughout the world, Eric Dejila said.

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