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US recognition of Morocco’s claim over Western Sahara illegal: Algeria

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Supporters of Western Sahara's independence hold Western Sahara flags during a demonstration, in Bordeaux, southwestern France, on December 12, 2020. (Photo by AFP)

Algeria has rejected a decision by outgoing US President Donald Trump to recognize Morocco’s sovereignty over the disputed territory of Western Sahara, saying the move lacks legal effect and undermines de-escalation efforts in the region.

On Thursday, Trump tweeted that Morocco had decided to normalize relations with Israel after Washington agreed to recognize Rabat’s sovereignty over Western Sahara.

Morocco became the fourth Arab country this year, after the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan, to announce it had agreed to forge formal diplomatic ties with the Tel Aviv regime.

In a statement released on Saturday, the Algerian Foreign Ministry said Trump’s decision “has no legal effect because it contradicts UN resolutions, especially UN Security Council resolutions on Western Sahara.”

“The proclamation would undermine the de-escalation efforts made at all levels in order to pave the way for launching a real political process,” it added.

The ministry also stressed that the Western Sahara conflict “is a case of decolonization which can be solved only through the implementation of international conventions and the prevailing doctrine of both the United Nations and the African Union relating to this issue.”

Morocco annexed Western Sahara - a former Spanish colony - in 1975, and has since been in conflict with the Algeria-backed Polisario Front.

The movement has been fighting for independence of the Sahrawi people in Western Sahara and a referendum on their self-determination. 

The Polisario Front condemned "in the strongest terms the fact that outgoing American President Donald Trump attributes to Morocco something which does not belong" to the country, namely sovereignty over Western Sahara.

It further vowed to fight on until Moroccan forces withdrew from all of Western Sahara.

Also on Saturday, Algeria’s Prime Minister Abdelaziz Djerad criticized "foreign maneuvers" seeking to "destabilize” his country. 

"There is now a desire by the Zionist entity to come closer to our borders," he said.

The remarks came after the United States adopted a new map of Morocco that included Western Sahara.

"This map is a tangible representation of President Trump's bold proclamation two days ago - recognizing Morocco's sovereignty over Western Sahara," US Ambassador to Rabat David Fischer said during a ceremony at the American diplomatic mission.

He then signed the "new official US government map of the kingdom of Morocco" and noted that it would be presented to Morocco's King Mohammed VI.

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