Morocco quits Africa-Arab summit over presence of Polisario

Malabo  - Morocco and several Arab countries walked out of an Africa-Arab nations summit in Equatorial Guinea on Wednesday to protest the presence of a delegation from the Polisario Front, media reports said.

Morocco, which is a big investor in Africa, quit the fourth Africa-Arab World Summit, which focuses on economic cooperation, along with seven other Arab nations - Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, Jordan and Yemen - and Somalia.

The Moroccan delegation took the decision to protest "the presence of the emblem of a puppet entity in the meeting rooms", the Moroccan foreign ministry said, quoted by the Moroccan news agency MAP.

Morocco maintains that Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony under its control, is an integral part of the kingdom, while the Polisario Front, which campaigns for the territory's independence, demands a referendum on self-determination.

The Moroccan delegation quit the one-day summit in Malabo as Rabat is attempting to rejoin the African Union which it left in 1984 - when it was then called the Organisation of African Unity - to protest the admission of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic declared by the Polisario.

In 1991, the United Nations brokered a ceasefire between the two sides.

But a promised referendum to settle the status of the vast desert territory home to half a million people has yet to materialise.

Morocco's latest move was criticised on Equatorial Guinea's Africa 24 network, which is close to the government.

"Morocco has partnerships with Central Africa, West Africa and Southern Africa. We cannot allow such a blow", said one commentator.

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