The President of the Norwegian parliament, Mr. Thorbjørn Jagland, will Saturday March 31 travel to Morocco on a five day long official visit. He will there meet the leader of Corcas, a council for Western Saharan issues established by the king.
According to the official Moroccan news service (MAP) last Thursday, Mr. Jagland will meet Morocco’s Prime Minister Driss Jettou, the Foreign Affairs Minister Mohammed Benaïssa and the Moroccan President of Parliament AbdelWahed Radi.
In addition a meeting is planned between Mr. Jagland and Khalihenna Ould Errachid, the President of Corcas (Conseil consultative pour les affaires sahariennes).
Established by the king The visit of Mr. Jagland is concurrent with Morocco’s international effort to mobilize support for its proposed solution to the Western Sahara conflict. After having obstructed UN attempts to organize a referendum in Western Sahara since 1991, Morocco now proposes that Western Sahara should be annexed as a part of the kingdom, through a so-called autonomy plan.
One of the most visible partisans behind the new autonomy plan is Corcas. As the name indicates, Corcas is a council for Western Sahara affairs appointed by the Moroccan king. Corcas is accompanying the Moroccan diplomatic corps on their international lobbying trips to advocate Morocco’s proposal.
When the king claims that the Moroccan proposal to end the conflict is supported by the population, it is always done by referring to Corca’s acceptance of the plan. The proposal, however, has not received support neither from the UN nor from the Fronte Polisario, and is very unpopular among the Sahrawi population in the occupied territories and in the refugee camps of Algeria.
The Corcas council can hardly be said to represent the Sahrawi population, as neither the members nor the leaders have been elected, but are hand-picked by the Moroccan king.
Encourages Mr. Jagland The President of the Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara, Ronny Hansen, is glad that Norwegian representatives visit Morocco and carry out a dialogue with Moroccan representatives about issues of common interest, such as the occupation of Western Sahara and possible solutions to the conflict.
"We will encourage Mr. Jagland to actively and unambiguously present the official Norwegian point of view on the illegal occupation", Hansen says.
"A broad public opinion in Norway has regularly shown great concern about the well-documented Moroccan violations towards civilian Sahrawis and the sabotage of the UN peace plan. We hope Mr. Jagland can take this message with him into the meetings with Moroccan authorities", Hansen says.
Norway and the Norwegian political parties have consistently supported the right to self-determination by the Sahrawi people and do not acknowledge the Moroccan claim to Western Sahara.
During its General Assembly in 2005 the Labour party issued the following statement:
“The role of the United Nations remains crucial and we support the UN peace plan in addition to other solutions that the parties may agree to in co-operation with the Special Envoy of the Secretary General for the area. Such solutions must be based on international laws and the people’s right to self-determination. Before the conflict has been solved Norwegian commercial actors must not be active in the occupied territories, or carry out oil-related activities on the continental shelf outside Western Sahara. Norway must put pressure on the Moroccan authorities to improve the human rights situation for the population in Western Sahara.”
The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs recently visited the Sahrawian refugee camps in Algeria. Download their report here (in Norwegian).
Since 1975, three quarters of the territory of Western Sahara has been occupied by Morocco. A majority of the population is still living in refugee camps in Algeria. Those who remained in their homeland are subjected to serious harassment from the Moroccan occupiers. For more than 40 years the Sahrawis have been waiting for the fullfilment of their legitimate right to self-determination.
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