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Nato inflames tensions over occupied Western Sahara

NATO has inflamed simmering tensions in north Africa after its website showed a map with Morocco’s border extending deep into the occupied territory of Western Sahara, it was reported today.

The unexpected border change appeared in an article profiling Nato’s Defence Education Enhancement Endowment Programme (Deep) which first appeared on December 14.

It represents a change from previous maps which show Morocco within the UN-recognised borders, with Western Sahara separated from it by a line.

There has been no official statement from Nato announcing a deviation from the overwhelming international consensus on the territory, 80 per cent of which is illegally occupied by Morocco.

But the new map’s publication came shortly after the US recognised Morocco’s claims to Western Sahara in exchange for Rabat establishing diplomatic ties with Israel.

Western Sahara was annexed by Morocco and Mauritania in 1975 after the defeat of Spanish colonisers.

The two nations signed the Madrid Accords with dictator Francisco Franco in 1975 — a week before he died.

The Polisario Front proclaimed the creation of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic with a government in exile located in Algeria.

Mauritania withdrew its forces in 1979, but Morocco refused to give up its claim on the land, insisting that Western Sahara was an integral part of the country.

But a United Nations commission of inquiry found that “the majority of the population within the Spanish Sahara was manifestly in favour of independence.”

And the International Court of Justice delivered a damning verdict rejecting Morocco’s claim of precolonial historical sovereignty.

In 1991 the UN-brokered a ceasefire on the basis that Morocco would hold a referendum on independence.

But Morocco reneged on the agreement and later promises, instead offering regional autonomy to Africa’s last colony.

Nato was contacted for comment.

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