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The U.S. Consulate is a turning point for the controversial Western Sahara

Dakar, Western Sahara (AP)-Fishing trawlers are crowded with Western Sahara Port Dakhla in Western Sahara, where fish scales roll up the arms of workers. While they are making nets, buyers are still in a huge Shouting from the auction warehouse. Nearby, turquoise waters are everywhere, almost empty Atlantic beaches, and diners drink tea in cafes on the sidewalk.

The United States plans to put its footprints in this picturesque environment.

The US ambassador to Morocco, David T. Fischer, attended the ceremony in Dakra on Sunday, which was the first step in opening a consulate, marking a turning point in the disputed and strictly regulated territory of North Africa .

This move by the United States recognizes Morocco’s authority on this land-in exchange for the normalization of Morocco’s relations with Israel.

The top official of the State Department David Schenker (David Schenker) also joined Fisher. Both diplomats wore white Moroccan robes.

“Our trip to Dakhla today is another historic milestone in the friendship between the Kingdom of Morocco and the United States of America for more than 200 years,”

; the U.S. Embassy in Morocco quoted him on his Twitter account.

Although this shift in U.S. foreign policy has frustrated the indigenous Saharans who have sought independence for Western Sahara for decades, others have seen new opportunities in trade and tourism, which will help the region and sunny coastal cities such as Da Carat provides a welcome boost.

In his speech at the meeting, the US ambassador said that the consulate is open to the United States, which allows it to “further use Morocco’s strategic position as a trading hub for Africa, Europe and the Middle East.” He added that investment and development projects will benefit the region.

The portrait of King Mohammed VI of Morocco, waving from behind his sunglasses, hung on the arch of the back to greet the people who arrived in Dakhla. The king’s face is placed side by side on the map, which includes Western Sahara as part of Morocco.

Morocco annexed the former Spanish colony in 1975, waged a 16-year war between Morocco and the Polisario Front, and then reached a diplomatic and military stalemate. The organization sought to base Algeria in the Sahara and obtain it. Supported independence. The protracted territorial dispute has restricted Western Sahara’s contact with the outside world.

Khatat Yanja, head of the Dakhla District Committee, looks forward to the arrival of the United States, opening his city to new markets and persuading more tourists to appreciate its beaches, local goods and stunning sunsets Great view. He expressed the hope that the United States will invest in tourism, renewable energy, agriculture, and fisheries in particular.

Yanja said of the future consulate: “We appreciate this gesture.” “By hiring people and creating more resources, this will open a whole new chapter for investment in the region. It will also open more for international trade. Door.”

The main fishing port is the lifeblood of the local economy, employing 70% of Dakra’s labor force. According to Port Superintendent Bintaleb Elhassan (Bintaleb Elhassan), tens of thousands of ships bring 500,000 tons of fish each year and exports worth 2.2 billion dirhams (249 million US dollars).

Under flocks of sounding seagulls, fishermen dragged sardines and mackerel to the warehouse and auctioned their catch from neat trays. At the nearby processing plant, rows of women, including immigrants from all over Africa, clean and sort the fish.

Morocco strictly regulates the region. During a recent visit to Dakhla, the authorities closely monitored an Associated Press reporter in a manner frequently used by visitors and residents.

US Assistant Secretary of State David Schenker (David Schenker) visited Dakhla and Laayoune, the largest city in Western Sahara on Saturday. He and Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs Nasser Bourita are expected to open a temporary diplomatic post on Sunday.

Although the consulate is not expected to open for another 6 to 12 months, the Schenck trip is a way for the United States to consolidate its commitment to Western Sahara before President Donald Trump steps down.

Trump’s female son Jared Kushner helped bring about the normalization agreement between Morocco and Israel announced last month as part of a series of historic agreements In exchange, this won the main support of Washington in the Arab countries.

Trump stated that the goal of the Western Sahara consulate will be to “promote economic and trade opportunities in the region,” which is about the size of Colorado and is believed to have large offshore oil reserves and mineral resources.

Representatives of the Polisario Front at the United Nations, Sidi Omar called on the next administration of US President-elect Biden on Saturday to reverse Trump’s decision.

Omar said on Twitter: “The United States can neither support the role of the United Nations in resolving the Western Sahara conflict, nor can it support Morocco’s sovereignty.”

The economy west of the Sahara is run by Morocco, which has established most of the territory’s infrastructure and encouraged Moroccans to settle there. However, the United Nations and most governments around the world do not recognize Morocco’s sovereignty over the country, which limits Morocco’s ability to export resources and complicates trade transactions.

For many people in Dakhla, at least those who are allowed to talk to visiting reporters, local concerns seem to outweigh geopolitical concerns. Residents commute to work, sell oranges, buy jewelry, enjoy local specialties in cafes on the sidewalk, and play with dogs on the quiet beach.

The recognition of Western Sahara by the United States as Morocco has aroused criticism from the United Nations and its allies. African observers say this may have destabilized the entire region in the fight against Islamic insurgency and immigrant trafficking.

This move particularly angered the Saharans who wanted to vote on the future of the region and neighboring Algeria, which hosted Saharan refugees and supported Polisario. Schenk also visited Algeria in recent days.

The United States will join the few countries that have consulates in their territories, but the number is still increasing. The most recent country is Gambia.

The Gambia expressed gratitude to Morocco for its support, including Morocco’s construction of a new Ministry of Foreign Affairs building in Gambia. In addition, Morocco continues to provide education grants to Gambian students,” Consul General Ousmane Badjie told The Associated Press in his office, where a portrait of the Moroccan king is still hanging.

Saharawi activists held protests in several cities in the United States and Spain, but when the State Department formally notified Congress of its plan to open a consulate on December 24, Washington did not directly address their concerns..

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo only stated that the United States “will continue to support political negotiations to resolve the issue between Morocco and Polisario within the framework of the Moroccan Autonomy Plan.”


Matthew Lee in Washington and Angela Charlton in Paris contributed to this report.

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