Sweden won't recognise Western Sahara

2016-01-16 14:13


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Stockholm - Sweden has decided not to recognise Western Sahara as an independent state, Foreign Minister Margo Wallstrom announced on Friday, a move likely to ease diplomatic tensions with Morocco which claims sovereignty over the mineral-rich territory.

The decision was announced after a period of internal consultation which lasted several months and will disappoint the separatist Polisario Front which has been campaigning for independence for the territory since 1973.

"All our energy will be focused into supporting the UN process" of mediation between the two parties, Swedish Foreign Minister Margo Wallstrom said.

"Recognition would not help this process. The situation in Western Sahara differs from that of other states which Sweden has recognised in the past.

"As a result, the government has chosen not to recognise Western Sahara and rather to support the assessment of earlier governments on this matter," she said.

The decision marks a U-turn for the Swedish left.

When the Social Democrats were in opposition in December 2012, they had voted in favour of a motion urging the government "to recognise Western Sahara as a free and independent state" and to work toward this goal even within the European Union.

The Swedish government of the day rejected the move.

Despite taking over the government in October 2014 in a coalition alongside the Greens, who had also backed the Western Sahara motion, the Social Democrats have hesitated to become the first EU country to recognise the disputed territory's independence.

The issue had stoked tensions between Sweden and Morocco, with Rabat blocking the opening in September of the kingdom's first Ikea store over a technicality, with media reports saying it was in retaliation for Stockholm's position on Western Sahara.

Morocco took control of most of the disputed territory in November 1975 after the end of Spanish colonisation, unleashing a war for independence that lasted until 1991.

A UN-brokered ceasefire between Morocco and the Polisario Front has held since then but UN efforts to organise a referendum on the territory's future have been resisted by Rabat.

Read more on:    morocco  |  austria  |  western sahara  |  north africa

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