Did Austria actually back Morocco’s autonomy plan for Western Sahara or merely show its support to the UN’s work in the region and on the subject in general?
In what has been received as a huge victory for the Moroccan elite, Austria is reported to have “backed” Rabat’s so-called ‘autonomy plan’ for Western Sahara at the United Nations.
In new diplomatic breakthrough for Rabat’s diplomacy which recently hit an all time low with a bribery scandal in the European parliament, Austria on 28th of February appeared to back Morocco’s autonomy plan as a basis for a “serious and credible” solution to the Western Sahara dispute, Reuters reports.
Yet in fact, despite the Moroccan press distorting the facts, Austria merely supported the UN’s work on the dossier.
Vienna’s position was set out in the joint declaration issued in Rabat, at the end of a meeting between Moroccan Prime Minister Aziz Akhannouch and Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer, which simply stated it supported the UN’s mission in Western Sahara – but didn’t go further on actually supporting Morocco’s autonomy plan as such.
The autonomy plan has since received some support of the United States and several European nations as well as that of many Arab and African nations. However it falls well short of the mark of ever getting the full support it needs following Morocco’s own bribery scandal in the European parliament and a vote of no confidence from France which is hesitant to support Morocco with its bid. Other imporant players, such as Israel, have still yet to formerly recognize Western Sahara as part of Morocco.
Morocco considers the Western Sahara as part and parcel of the kingdom’s sovereign territory. In 2007, Rabat proposed an autonomy plan as a solution, after the conflict dragged on.
Morocco fought a 15-year war with the Algeria-backed Polisario Front after Spain withdrew from its former colony in 1975. A United Nations-monitored ceasefire deal provided for a referendum, but no agreement was reached on the vote.