Morocco wants to return to African Union | News | DW | 18.07.2016
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Morocco wants to return to African Union

Moroccan king Mohammed VI has announced that the country was willing to reenter the AU, despite a decades-old diplomatic spat that caused the kingdom to leave. Morocco is the only African country outside the bloc.

The North African kingdom left the AU but "never quit Africa" King Mohammed VI told bloc leaders gathered in Rwanda for a weekend summit.

"For a long time our friends have been asking us to return to them, so that Morocco can take up its natural place within its institutional family. The moment has now come," the monarch said.

The father of the current ruler, King Hassan II, took Morocco out of the AU in 1984 when the organization decided to accept Western Sahara as a member. Rabat claims Western Sahara as a part of its own territory.

While the disputed region remains an AU member, it was unable to secure a seat in the UN and the Arab League. In his address, King Mohammed urged the African club to rethink its position on Western Sahara.

"The recognition of a pseudo state is hard for the Moroccan people to accept," he said.

'Historical error'

The Morocco-AU divorce over three decades ago eventually made the kingdom the only country on the continent outside the organization. The UN was trying to work out a political solution, according to the king.

"Through this historic act and return, Morocco wants to work within the AU to transcend divisions," he added.

"On the Sahara issue, institutional Africa can no longer bear the burden of a historical error and a cumbersome legacy."

Waiting for referendum

Parade zum 35. Jahrestag der Gründung der Polisario in Westsahara

Sahrawi women soldiers of Polisario front

Morocco claimed sparsely populated Western Sahara in 1975, setting off a conflict with the local Polisario Front which demanded self-determination. The mineral-rich zone was previously controlled by Spain.

In 1991, the UN brokered a ceasefire between Rabat and the Algerian-backed rebels. However, the UN also promised a referendum on Western Sahara's status that has so far failed to materialize.

The Moroccan government also lashed out at UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in March this year, after the UN chief used the word "occupation" to describe the annexation of Western Sahara. Rabat expelled dozens of UN staff, allowing some of them to return only last week.

The AU would need to vote on the kingdom's return to the fold.

dj/kms (AFP)

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