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THE United States has provoked anger as it once again flouted international law with a Christmas announcement that it would open a consulate in the contested territory of Western Sahara.
Outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Thursday that the process of establishing the diplomatic post had already started with “a virtual consulate” established in the interim period.
“Pleased to announce the beginning of the process to establish a US consulate in Western Sahara,” he said.
“Effective immediately, we are inaugurating a virtual presence post for Western Sahara.” The online post is to be “followed soon by a fully functioning consulate.”
The announcement came soon after the December 10 deal struck between the US and Morocco which normalised relations between the latter and Israel.
In return US President Donald Trump promised to recognise the north African country’s sovereignty over Western Sahara, in opposition to the position of United Nations and international law.
Morocco and Mauritania annexed Western Sahara in 1975 after winning independence from Spanish colonisers, signing the Madrid Accords with dictator Francisco Franco a week before he died.
The Polisario Front, which was formed in 1973, continued the struggle for independence with support from Algeria and in 1979 Mauritania withdrew its forces.
Morocco then occupied the rest of the territory, insisting that Western Sahara was an integral part of the country.
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.
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