RABAT, Morocco, (Reuters) – The Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) on Thursday opened a consulate in Western Sahara, joining African and Arab countries that have established diplomatic missions there in a sign of support for Morocco’s claim to the disputed territory.
The Dominican Republic’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said he opened the consulate in Dakhla on behalf of Eastern Caribbean member states, a joint statement from the Dominican Republic and Morroco said.
The Algeria-backed Polisario front seeks to establish an independent state in the vast and sparsely populated desert region, considered by Morocco as its own land.
Gaining international recognition for its rule over Western Sahara has long been Morocco’s prime diplomatic ambition.
Rabat has said the most it can offer as a political solution to the dispute is autonomy under its sovereignty. The Polisario and its ally Algeria reject this and say they want an independence referendum.
Algeria and the Polisario have also denounced the opening of consulates in the territory.
Skerrit said his country backed Morocco’s sovereignty over the territory and its autonomy plan.
Major powers including France, Germany, and the United States and this month Spain and Israel have also supported Rabat’s proposal to end the conflict.
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For years most countries had backed the idea of a referendum to resolve the issue – which was agreed as part of the 1991 ceasefire.
However, there was never agreement on how the vote would take place and in recent years even the UN has stopped referring to the idea of a vote, speaking instead of seeking a realistic, mutually acceptable solution based on compromise.
Reporting by Ahmed Eljechtimi: Editing by Barbara Lewis