Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdulla Shahid on Friday reiterated Maldives' support for Morocco's position on the disputed Western Sahara region, once more calling for peaceful resolution through negotiations.
Shahid made the statement at the 'Virtual Ministerial Conference in Support of the Autonomy Initiative Under Moroccan Sovereignty', which was jointly held by Morocco and the United States.
Reaffirming Maldives' backing of Morocco, Minister Shahid highlighted the close bilateral relations between the two countries across the areas of culture and heritage, education, climate change, economic cooperation, counterterrorism and de-radicalization, as well multilateral ties.
"The Maldives has always supported the position of Morocco on the Western Sahara and has constantly advocated for a peaceful resolution of the dispute through negotiations", he stated.
He also welcomed the United States' decision last December to recognise Morocco's sovereignty over the entire region of Western Sahara.
"We are confident that the Moroccan Initiative of Autonomy Plan remains the most promising path to resolve the dispute peacefully", said Shahid, adding that Maldives would stand by Morocco's endeavours to "achieve a just, lasting and mutually acceptable resolution to this issue in line with the principles and objectives of the UN Charter".
Morocco first announced its claim over the Western Sahara, a vast mineral-rich region in northwest Africa, in 1957 while the area was under Spanish rule. After decades-long efforts by the Western Sahara’s Sahrawi ethnic group to gain independence, Spain withdrew from the region in 1975, resulting in a partition with Morocco receiving the northern two-thirds of the Western Sahara while Mauritania received the other.
The Polisario Front, which was the Sahrawi's guerrilla movement that arose during the Spanish rule to fight for independence, began their own government called the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) in 1976. However, after Mauritania withdrew from the region and conflict, Morocco annexed the former's previous share of Western Sahara in 1979. The conflict between Morocco and SADR continued until the United Nations (UN) brokered a ceasefire in 1991.
Although Morocco agreed then to hold an independence referendum for the Sahrawis as part of the ceasefire agreement, Morocco’s King Muhammad VI declared in 2001 that the kingdom would no longer agree to the poll. Since then, Morocco has vied for autonomy over the whole region.
While the UN has on multiple occasions attempted to broker talks and negotiations, a resolution is yet to be reached.
Meanwhile, the US' outgoing president, Donald Trump, announced last December that America recognised Moroccon sovereignty over Western Sahara, which marked a great victory for the kingdom.
However, the decision drew backlash from critics that accused Trump of making the move in order to get Morocco to recognise Israel. Concerns have also been raised that the US' decision could reignite unrest across Western Africa.