U.S. Acknowledges Morocco’s Claim over Western Sahara

Aerial view of Dakhla, Western Sahara.

December 12, 2020

The United States government has recognized Morocco's claims over the disputed part of Western Sahara, a move that has the potential to increase tensions in the already troubled region.

The Western Sahara region, once a Spanish colony, was annexed by Morocco in 1975, and problems started immediately between pro-independence rebels and the Moroccan government. Over 100,000 people have had their lives uprooted, fleeing the conflict in the region, desperately surviving as refugees in the Algerian desert.

Morocco currently controls about 75% of Western Sahara. The Sahrawi Republic andthe Polisario Front, a pro-independence rebel movement fighting on behalf of the Sahrawi people, control the rest.The US is unique among other nations as it's the first and only major power to recognize Moroccan sovereignty over the Western Sahara region.

The recognition is in response to Morocco’s stated commitment to begin normalizing ties with Israel.The Moroccan government sees the US recognition as a step that could help convince other major powers like the European Union to follow suit. That's a longshot, as it would violate U.N. resolutions granting indigenous Sahrawi people claims to the region.

This move by the US comes during a time of increased tensions between the Polisario Front and Moroccan security forces. Recently, the Polisario Front broke a long-standing cease-fire, declaring a state of war in response to Morocco's military operations in Western Sahara.

The rebels have stated that the US recognition of Morocco’s claim over the region violates the United Nations charter and obstructs efforts by the international community to resolve the conflict. Ever hopeful that an independent Sahrawi nation is possible, the Polisario Front is anticipating that the incoming Biden administrationwill reverse the decision.

Even as the only nation that recognizes Morocco’s claim in the region, the US wields a great deal of influence over how the conflict will eventually be resolved. The Sahrawi Republic, the Polisario Front, and thousands of people displaced by the conflict are hoping for a referendum on independence that may never come, since the US holds veto power in the U.N. Security Council.

The map of the Western Sahara is unlikely to change in the near future, but if it does, Seterra will be quick to update all affected map quizzes.