President Thabo Mbeki’s Letter to His Majesty King Mohamed VI of Morocco

President
Republic of South Africa

August 1, 2004

His Majesty King Mohamed VI
Rabat
Kingdom of Morocco.

Your Majesty,

I am honoured to convey the greetings of our Government and my own, as well as some of our views concerning the issue of Western Sahara.

As you are aware your Majesty, a number of years ago our then President, Nelson Mandela, announced a decision of our Government to recognise and establish diplomatic relations with the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) consistent with earlier decisions of the OAU which our country joined in 1994.

Your late father, his Majesty King Hassan II, appealed to President Mandela not to carry out this decision. The then Secretary General of the United Nations, Botrus Botrus Ghali, and other world leaders conveyed a similar request to President Mandela.

The same view was communicated to us when we took over the Presidency of our country. The argument advanced was that we should give negotiations being carried out under the auspices of the UN Security Council and the UN Secretary General a chance to succeed. It was said that our recognition of SADR would seriously undermine these ongoing negotiations.

We respected and valued the views expressed by the King and Government of Morocco, leaders of other countries with which we maintain friendly relations and the United Nations.

Accordingly, 10 years after we achieved our liberation we have still not recognised SADR, despite sustained pressure by the Polisario Front and some member States of the OAU, and now the AU, to respect the decision of the OUA and the AU to recognise SADR.

During this period, we have continuously sought to persuade the Polisario Front to do its best to contribute to successful conclusion of the UN led negotiations, consistent with the decisions of the UN, including the “Peace Plan for the self-determination of the People of Western Sahara”.

Consistently, we have informed the leadership of the Front of our determination to pay heed to the advice and requests of leaders whose views we valued. We did not hide the fact that these had advised against the recognition of SADR.

We indicated to the Front our belief that our respect of this advice was the best contribution we could make to the successful implementation of the peace plan and other proposals that would lead to the holding of a referendum that would give the people of Western Sahara the possibility to exercise their right to self-determination.

We were therefore gravely disturbed to read the April 23, 2004 report on Western Sahara of the UN Secretary General, Mr. Kofi Annan, in which he said:

“In my view and that of my personal envoy, Morocco’s final response to the peace plan would require the parties involved to agree to negotiate a solution for Western Sahara based on ‘autonomy within the framework of Moroccan sovereignty’. The issue of the sovereignty is, of course, the fundamental issue which has divided the parties for all these years. Morocco does not accept the settlement plan to which it has agreed for many years. It should be recalled that while Morocco had accepted the draft framework agreement, it rejects any discussion of any proposal to divide the territory and it also now does not accept essential elements of the peace plan”. (My emphasises)

Naturally, in this regard, we have also taken especial note of the 09 April 2004 Reply of the kingdom of Morocco to the proposal of the then Personal Envoy of the UN Secretary General, Mr James Baker, entitled “Peace Plan for the Self-Determination of Western Sahara”, as communicated by your Minister for Foreign Affairs and cooperation, Mr Mohamed Benaissa.

As Your Majesty knows, this reply makes the categorical statements that:

“Consequently, and as far as the Kingdom is concerned, the final nature of the autonomy solution is not negotiable.

“On another hand, the autonomy solution, as agreed to by the parties and approved by the population, rules out, by definition, the possibility for the independence option to be submitted to the said population. It is, therefore, out of the question for Morocco to engage in negotiations with anyone over its sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

Your Majesty, you will be aware of the fact that when UN SG Kofi Annan comments on your Government’s reply, he says that, “while Morocco’s final response to the peace plan expresses a willingness to continue to work to achieve a political solution to the conflict over Western Sahara, it also clearly states that an ‘autonomy based political solution can only be final’, which has adverse implications for self-determination, as called for in resolution 1429 (2002)”.

You will undoubtedly also be familiar with UN Security Council Resolution 1541 (2004), which was unanimously adopted by the Security Council, following its consideration of the April 23, 2004 report of the UN SG.

In this resolution, the Security Council reiterated its commitment to help “achieve a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution, which will provide for the self determination of the people of Western Sahara in the context of arrangements consistent with the principles and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations”.

We are fully in agreement with the Security Council that the question of Western Sahara must be resolved on the basis of this commitment.

Since 1985, when the United Nations Secretary General, in cooperation with the organisation of African Unity (OAU), initiated a mission of good offices leading to the “the settlement proposals”, which were approved by Security Council in 1990, Africa and the rest of the international community have sought a solution that would afford to the people of Western Sahara the possibility freely to choose between independence and integration with Morocco.

Accordingly, when we delayed recognition of SADR this was in the basis that both Morocco and the Polisario Front were working with the UN SG and the Security Council to agree on the modalities of a process that would allow the people western Sahara to exercise their right to self-determination, in a manner consistent with the principles and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations and the relevant documents of the OAU and AU.

However, the April 9, Reply of the Government of Morocco to the UN peace plan unequivocally seeks to deny the people of Western Sahara their right to self-determination, contrary both to fundamental and inviolable international law and the earlier solemn commitments made by the Government of Morocco.

With regard to the later consideration, I am convinced that the UN SG and his personal envoy are correct to conclude that Morocco does not accept the settlement plan to which it had agreed for many years, and that it also now does not accept essential elements of the peace plan.

The April 9, Reply of your Government argues that the parameters of such “self-determination” as may be exercised by the people of Western Sahara should be determined by the Government of Morocco. Your Government then proceeds to define these parameters as an autonomy solution that would rule of the possibility for the independence option to be submitted to the population of Western Sahara.

You must agree, Your Majesty, this constitutes undisguised attempt to deny the very right to self-determination the UN is bound by its Charter to defend and advance, whose exercise by the people of Western Sahara it has sought for almost two decades.

We have in the past expressed our profound and unequivocal appreciation of the important contribution that Morocco made to our own struggle for self-determination, within the specific contexts of the struggle against the apartheid system in our country. This created a strong base for the development of the world relations of friendship and solidarity both our countries have successfully sought to build since our liberation in 1994.

In this regard, we have regretted and continue to regret the fact that, owing to unresolved question of Western Sahara, Morocco is not able to play its due role in the renewal of our continent as a full and active member of the OAU and the AU.

At the same time, with regard to the similarly outstanding and critically important issue of Palestine, we have also worked on the basis that our countries are united in their resolve to do everything in their power to help ensure that the Palestinian people also exercise their right to self-determination, up to and including independence.

All these conclusions have emanated from the experience to which we were exposed during the most difficult periods in our own history, when the King Mohamed V and Hassan II, the Governments and people of Morocco adopted and stuck to the principled position that we and our people had to be supported to exercise our right to self-determination.

We took it as a matter of faith that even with regards to the issue of Western Sahara, regardless of the history of colonisation in this part of Africa, Morocco would remain true to its tradition of loyalty to the principle of self-determination for all peoples.

We thought we understood that the central objective Morocco was pursuing in the UN led negotiations was to ensure that the people of Western Sahara exercised their right to self-determination, without let or hindrance, while rejoicing in the conviction that they would decide freely to become part of Morocco.

Most regrettably, the April 9, Reply of the Government of Morocco to the personal envoy of the UN SG has convinced us that we were mistaken in this view. It now seems clear that Morocco has absolutely no intention to respect the right of the people of Western Sahara to determine their destiny.

Instead, it has decided unilaterally, with no reference to the people of Western Sahara or respect for the views of both the UN and the AU, that everybody is obliged to accept a solution “consisting of autonomy within the framework of Morocco sovereignty.”

To emphasise this point, your Government has gone further to say “the final nature of the autonomy solution is not negotiable”. It is therefore, out of the question for Morocco to engage in negotiations with anyone over its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

And yet, as with question of Palestine, the issue of Western Sahara ineluctably includes matters of territory and sovereignty over this territory. To insist that these should not be an inherent part of any solution is to argue that no just solution should be sought.

Recent developments arising from the decisions of your Government make it impossible for us to continue to hope that our recognition of SADR is a material factor in favour of what the Security Council described as a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution, which would provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara.

The avoidable cul-de-sac caused by the positions advanced by the Government of Morocco has created the situation that any further delay on our part to recognise SADR will inevitably translate into an abandonment of our support of the right of the people of Western Sahara to self-determination.

For us not to recognise SADR in this situation is to become an accessory to the denial of then people of Western Sahara of their right to self-determination. This would constitutes a grave and unacceptable betrayal of our own struggle, of the solidarity Morocco extended to us, and our commitment to respect the Charter of the United Nations and the constitutive act of the African Union.

It would also suggest that what I have just said is mere words, with no obligations on us to respect solemn international agreements.

Your Majesty may also be aware of the fact that the recent Assembly of the African Union agreed that our country should host the Pan African Parliament. The people of Western Sahara will be entitled to send their elected delegates to this parliament, as representatives of the people of SADR.

It would clearly be untenable that we should deny these delegates entry into our country on the basis that we do not recognise them as legitimate representatives originating from an African State that is recognised by the AU and participates in its works as a Member State.

In its resolution 1541 (2004), the Security Council decided “to extend the mandate of the United Nations’ Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) until 31 October 2004”. It would be a matter of great joy to us if the breathing space this extension provides could be used finally to conclude the protracted negotiations concerning Western Sahara, in keeping with earlier international decisions that gave all of us hope that a just peace was possible.

In the light of the developments to which I have referred, we have begun discussions with the Polisario Front to agree on the modalities of the opening of the Embassy of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic in our country.

In all fairness I must also inform your Majesty that in addition to this, we will continue to support the UN and the AU efforts to enable the people of Western Sahara to exercise their right to self-determination, using all available and legitimate means at our disposal.

In the meantime, we will accord to the Polisario Front all such rights and privileges that are due to all Member States of the AU in the context of meeting our obligations to the AU and the peoples of Africa to provide a home for the Pan African Parliament.

Permit me, Your Majesty, to take advantage of this communication to convey our sincere thanks for your message of congratulations following the decision of the FIFA Executive Committee to accept our offer to host the 2010 Soccer World Cup, as well as our conviction that Morocco would have the same possibility in the future.

Please accept your Majesty the assurance of our highest considerations.

Thabo Mbeki
President of the Republic of South Africa

 

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