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Germany Backs Morocco Proposal for W.Sahara Autonomy

FILE - German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, left, speaks with Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita during her official visit to Rabat, Morocco, Thursday, Aug. 25, 2022.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has wrapped up her visit to Rabat by acknowledging the Moroccan autonomy plan regarding the Western Sahara conflict, in an effort to repair strained ties between her country and the North African monarchy.

Following her bilateral talks with Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita on Thursday, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said that "Germany considers... the autonomy plan presented in 2007 as a serious and credible effort by Morocco and as a good basis for a solution agreed upon between both parties."

Annalena arrived to Morocco in a bid to fully normalize the diplomatic ties after Germany openly criticized the U.S. recognition of Morocco's autonomy over the Western Sahara, which prompted the North African country to suspend diplomatic relations with Berlin in March 2021, citing "deep misunderstandings."

The German move follows Spain's decision in March to abandon its long-standing neutrality policy and support Rabat's 2007 plan for limited self-rule in the territory, which put an end to a diplomatic crisis that lasted a year and was brought on by Madrid's decision to treat Polisario leader Brahim Ghali for COVID-19.

The Western Sahara is a region of dispute between Morocco and the indigenous Sahrawi group, led by the Polisario Front, who are vying for independence and have the backing of the U.N.

The Polisario waged a long armed struggle for independence from Morocco before agreeing a ceasefire in 1991 on the promise of a U.N.-supervised referendum on self-determination — which has never happened.

On Saturday, Morocco's King Mohammed VI called on allies to "clarify" their position on Western Sahara and "unequivocally" back the autonomy plan.

Rabat views the Western Sahara as a crucial component of the country and a very delicate matter of security and national pride.