RABAT – The United Arab Emirates inaugurated Wednesday its consulate in Morocco’s southern city of Laayoune, a move that has further strengthened ties between Rabat and Abu Dhabi and dealt a blow to Algeria-backed Polisario Front.
UAE Ambassador to Rabat Al Asri Saeed Ahmed Al-Dhaheri was accompanied by Morocco’s Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita during the inauguration ceremony.
“The inauguration of the UAE Consulate General in Laayoune confirms the constant and sincere keenness of the wise leadership in the UAE to strengthen relations of brotherhood and solidarity with the brotherly Kingdom of Morocco and the concrete and effective expression of the UAE's support for Moroccan sovereignty over its southern provinces and support for Morocco’s autonomy initiative as a realistic solution to establishing stability, development and prosperity,” said Dhaheri.
Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan said that the opening of the UAE Consulate General in Laayoune was based on the decision of the country's wise leadership.
Sheikh Abdullah affirmed that the UAE’s position was steadfast in standing with brotherly Morocco in its just causes in regional and international affairs.
“We consider this a reflection of the sincere bonds and depth of brotherhood, and a review of the fruitful cooperation relations and active solidarity between the UAE and the brotherly Kingdom of Morocco,” he said.
Sheikh Adbullah said he hoped that the UAE consulate in Laayoune would play an important role in promoting positive opportunities towards expanding areas of mutual interest and deepening bilateral cooperation channels between the two nations.
The Gulf emirate is the first Arab state to open a consulate in Western Sahara following a phone call between Morocco's King Mohammed VI and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan.
Sheikh Mohamed said the decision was "an embodiment of the UAE's firm stance with the Kingdom of Morocco in its just causes at regional and international platforms."
Gaining international recognition for its claim to Western Sahara has long been Morocco's most important diplomatic ambition and the UAE decision may help build support towards that end with other Arab allies.
King Mohammed VI expressed his deep pride in the UAE being the first Arab country to open a Consulate-General in the southern provinces of the Kingdom, which he said embodies its firm position in defending Morocco’s legitimate rights.
The Moroccan monarch added that he was not surprised by the move as the UAE leadership are no strangers to championing just causes.
Morocco has controlled Western Sahara since Spanish colonial rule ended there in 1974, with the Polisario Front pushing for it to win independence.
United Nations efforts to broker a settlement between Morocco and the Polisario have repeatedly failed. A referendum on its future, promised as part of a 1991 ceasefire deal, never took place.
Western Sahara, though a sparsely populated desert region, has rich fishing waters, phosphate deposits and Morocco's only working land route into the rest of Africa as its border with Algeria is closed.
Rabat has said the most it can offer as a political solution to the dispute is autonomy. The separatist front and its ally Algeria reject this and say they want a referendum, with independence for Western Sahara as one of the options.