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Dominican Republic Recognizes Morocco's Claim to Western Sahara

Photo: Morocco World News

  • Morocco's Diplomatic Triump

Morocco’s foreign minister, Nasser Bourtia, has said that the Dominican Republic has officially recognized Morocco’s claim of the Western Sahara region. Roberto Álvarez, the Dominican foreign minister, sent an official letter to Rabat expressing this position. Historically, Morocco has claimed that Western Morocco is their territory but has had complications gaining international recognition. The biggest obstacle is the Algeria-backed Polisario Front trying to establish an independent state in Western Sahara. The Polisario Front has established some degree of control in the Western Sahara region, causing the international community to be hesitant to recognize this region as Moroccan. 

  • What is the Western Sahara conflict? 

The Western Sahara conflict dates back to the 1970s when Spain withdrew from the territory. Morocco claimed the Western Sahara region as theirs. Meanwhile, the Sahrawi nationalist movement, known as the Polisario Front, declared independence. The Polisario Front would create the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), which has limited international recognition. Since then, the Polinaro Front, backed by Algeria, has engaged in a guerilla war against Morocco. 

  • Why has Algeria continued its support for the SADR? 

Algeria has continued to help the SADR to help self-determination efforts and expand its regional influence. Considering Algeria’s struggle for independence from the French when contrasted to Morocco’s stable monarchical rule, Algeria sees a need to help the SADR. Furthermore, Morocco and Algeria have had a long-standing rivalry dating back to the Sand War, a border dispute ending in a stalemate. When accounting for these differences, one can see why Algeria’s perspective in supporting the SADR.

  • What efforts has the international community made to resolve this conflict? 

The United Nations adopted Resolution 690 in 1991. As a result, United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), a peacekeeping mission, was tasked with monitoring a cease-fire and conducting a referendum. The hope was for the Sahrawi people to integrate with Morocco or become independent. However, no referendum has happened because Morocco and Sahrawis have continually disagreed over voter eligibility.  Since 1991, there have been forty-seven extensions to MINURSO. MINURSO’s mission is to maintain peace, deliver humanitarian aid, and advance negotiations. 

  • What does the Dominican Republic’s stance mean? 

The Dominican Republic's recognition of Morocco’s claim of Western Sahara is a diplomatic victory on the international stage. Despite this, the Polisario Front and Algeria will continue to fight Morocco in Western Sahara. More countries have shifted their support toward Morocco over the years. Maybe some Latin American countries, who are pro-SADR, could change their stance.

  • Why would the Dominican Republic make this decision?

Justo Duarte, a Dominican ambassador, has made it clear there has been a growing commercial exchange between the Dominican Republic and Morocco. Ultimately, the Dominican Republic intends to protect and strengthen economic ties with Morocco. By having the Dominican Republic take a firm stance on Western Sahara, there are higher chances that more trade between the two countries occur. 

While the Dominican Republic’s position will not substantially change the Western Sahara conflict, it will create better mutually beneficial diplomatic relations with Morocco.

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