According to a report from Axios, the Biden administration told Morroco that it would not reverse the Trump administration’s move to recognize Morrocan sovereignty over Western Sahara, which was Rabat’s reward for normalizing relations with Israel.
Sources told Axios that Secretary of State Antony Blinken conveyed the message to Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita in a phone call on Friday. A State Department readout of the call did not mention Western Sahara but did say Blinken discussed Morroco’s relationship with Israel.
“The Secretary welcomed Morocco’s steps to improve relations with Israel and noted the Morocco-Israel relationship will bring long-term benefits for both countries,” the readout said.
The Trump administration recognized Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara in December 2020, making the US the first country to do so.
Morocco annexed Western Sahara after the Spanish withdrew from the region in 1975. Rabat then fought a war with the Polisario Front, a group that represents the indigenous Sahrawi people, to control the territory until a ceasefire was reached in 1991. Now there are fears that a new war is brewing. Last month, the Polisario Front said its police chief was killed in what could have been a Morrocan drone strike.
In 1976, the Polisario Front formed the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), a de facto state in Western Sahara. The SADR is a member of the African Union and maintains diplomatic relations with about 40 UN member states. Currently, the SADR controls about 20 percent of Western Sahara, and Morocco controls the rest.
President Biden is following through on other Trump-era favors for Arab countries that took steps to normalize with Israel. Biden is going ahead with a massive $23 billion weapons package to the UAE that includes F-35 fighter jets, reaper drones, and missiles.