President Joe Biden has decided not to reverse President Donald Trump’s recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over the disputed Western Sahara region, the Axios news site reported.
Secretary of State Tony Blinken notified his Moroccan counterpart, Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita, in a phone call on Friday that the policy would remain as is, at least for the time being, the report said, citing two sources familiar with the matter.
Under former president Donald Trump, the U.S. became the first Western country to acknowledge Moroccan sovereignty over the territory as part of a normalization deal between the North African country and Israel.
The Western Sahara, a sparsely populated territory with less than one million people, was annexed by Morocco in 1975 after former colonial power Spain surrendered control.
“The secretary welcomed Morocco’s steps to improve relations with Israel and noted the Morocco-Israel relationship will bring long-term benefits for both countries,” according to a readout of the call from the State Department.
However, the report said the Biden administration would seek to appoint a new U.N. envoy for the Western Sahara aimed at resuming talks for possible autonomy for the region.
At a Friday press briefing, State Department deputy spokesperson Jaline Porter said on the matter that “when it comes to Western Sahara, we are consulting privately with parties on how to best halt the violence there… We would also talk about having the goal to achieve a lasting settlement.”
In February, a bipartisan letter led by Republican Jim Inhofe and senior Democrat Patrick Leahy and calling on Biden to reverse Trump’s “illegitimate” Western Sahara decision was signed by half the Senate.
“The abrupt decision by the previous administration on December 11, 2020, to officially recognize the Kingdom of Morocco’s illegitimate claims of sovereignty over Western Sahara was short-sighted, undermined decades of consistent US policy, and alienated a significant number of African nations,” the senators wrote.