Former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker and former National Security Adviser John Bolton have slammed the Trump administration’s decision to recognize Moroccan sovereignty over the Western Sahara in return for a normalization deal with Israel.
They have called on President-elect Joe Biden to reverse the move.
Morocco became the fourth Arab state to announce its intentions to normalize relations with Israel as part of the Abraham Accords, following in the footsteps of the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan.
“Morocco’s autonomy plan is the only realistic option to achieve a just, lasting, and mutually acceptable solution to the dispute over Western Sahara,” a White House statement said last week.
Most of the Western Sahara is controlled by Morocco after it invaded in 1975. The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic controls a small portion of the area, which was formerly Spanish territory. The United Nations has called for self determination for the Sahrawi people and has expressed its opposition to the Trump administration’s move. The European Union and African Union are similarly opposed to Morocco’s annexation of the territory.
In a piece published in the Washington Post on Thursday, Baker, who also served as the U.N. secretary-general’s envoy for Western Sahara, denounced the recognition as “rash and cynical” and described it as an “astounding retreat from the principles of international law and diplomacy.”
While he lauded President Donald Trump for “rearranging the chessboard in the Middle East,” he added “[m]ixing the Abraham Accords with the Western Sahara conflict, clearly and unequivocally an issue of self-determination, will not strengthen or expand the accords.”
Another breakthrough: Morocco became the fourth Arab state to reach a peace deal with Israel this year. https://t.co/VzsTs5mTfD
— Breitbart News (@BreitbartNews) December 10, 2020
According to Baker, rescinding Western Saharan recognition would not imperil the new ties between Israel and Morocco.
Baker, who served as the U.N. secretary-general’s personal envoy for Western Sahara following his time as secretary of state, praised U.S. President Donald Trump for his efforts at “rearranging the chessboard in the Middle East” by establishing peace between Israel and Arab and Muslim nations, though added that “the United States has unwisely abandoned its principles for something that will make no difference to the position of the international community and to the resolution of the conflict. Many U.S. allies and others have already made statements to that effect.”
Writing in Foreign Policy, Bolton urged Biden to walk back the move.
“Trump’s decision to throw the Sahrawi people under the bus ditches three decades of U.S. support for their self-determination via a referendum of the Sahrawi people on the territory’s future status,” Bolton, a vocal critic of Trump, outlined.
It is “perfectly appropriate for a nation to modify its responsibilities in light of changed national-security circumstances, but it is quite another to gratuitously destroy a commitment, with no consultation, just to make a so-called deal in a completely separate context,” he wrote.
“From the perspective of U.S. policy, the best outcome would be for Biden, once inaugurated, to reverse Trump’s acquiescence to Moroccan sovereignty. This will not be easy, given the expectations – misguided though they are – already built up in Rabat and Jerusalem,” Bolton wrote. “If Biden wants to do a 180-degree turn, he should do so immediately on taking office, which would minimize any damage.”
He added that reversing the move would come at “no cost to Israel.”
A third Republican, chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee Sen. Jim Inhofe, also panned Trump’s “shocking and deeply disappointing” move, adding he was “saddened that the rights of the Western Sahara people have been traded away.” Inhofe noted that he will “make every effort to make sure that we will go back to the policy that we had.”
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