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Bahrain opens consulate in Western Sahara after Trump recognizes Morocco’s rule over region

Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani and his Moroccan counterpart Nasser Bourita open a Bahraini consulate in the coastal city of Laayoune, Western Sahara, on December 14, 2020. (Photo by BNA)

Bahrain has opened a consulate in Moroccan-controlled Western Sahara, after US President Donald Trump agreed to recognize the North African country’s sovereignty over the disputed territory as part of a normalization agreement between Rabat and the Israeli regime.

During a ceremony in the coastal city of Laayoune on Monday, Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani and his Moroccan counterpart Nasser Bourita opened the mission.

Bahrain’s official news agency BNA quoted al-Zayani as saying that the opening of the consulate constitutes a “historic stage” in the Persian Gulf kingdom’s strong relations with Morocco.

Late last month, Morocco’s Royal palace announced Bahrain was planning to open a consulate in Western Sahara and the decision came after a phone call between King Mohammed VI and Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifah.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) was the first Arab state to open a diplomatic mission in Laayoune in November.

Morocco, in a deal brokered by Trump’s outgoing administration, became the fourth Arab state this year to strike a normalization deal with Israel, following the UAE, Bahrain and Sudan.

As part of the agreement with Morocco announced last week, Trump agreed to recognize Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara.

Algeria, however, rejected Trump’s stance, saying the step would undermine efforts to end the decades-long conflict over the desert territory.

The Algerian Foreign Ministry said the US 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,” the ministry said in a statement.

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. 

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