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Majority of Congress Calls for Resolving W. Sahara Conflict to Remove ‘Single Greatest Obstacle’ to Combating Terrorist Threats in N. Africa
Bipartisan Letter to Pres. Obama from 229 US House Members Urges Strong Actions to Reaffirm Support for Morocco’s Compromise Autonomy Proposal
Washington, DC (April 16, 2009)—Today, a majority of Members of the US House of Representatives—led by Rep. Gary Ackerman, Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, and the highest ranking members of the Democratic and Republican leadership—sent a letter to President Barack Obama expressing concern over the rising threat from al-Qaeda and other terrorists in North Africa. The letter called for strong US backing for Morocco’s compromise solution to end the 30-year Western Sahara conflict, which would clear a path for greater regional cooperation to meet growing security and economic challenges.
The “single greatest obstacle” standing in the way of US efforts and those of its partners in the region, says the letter from a bipartisan majority of the Congress, is the “unresolved territorial dispute over the Western Sahara” which has lingered for more than three decades. In 2007, Morocco presented a compromise proposal to peacefully end the dispute by providing self- determination through autonomy for those in the region. This initiative, which the UN Security Council called “serious and credible,” spurred UN-mediated direct talks between Morocco and the Algerian-backed Polisario Front. However, after four rounds of negotiations, little progress has been made, despite support from many in the international community for Morocco’s proposal. “We remain convinced that the US position, favoring autonomy for Western Sahara under Moroccan sovereignty, is the only feasible solution,” the letter continued, referring to the US policy which has remained consistent through the Clinton and Bush Administrations. “We urge you to both
sustain this longstanding policy, and to make clear, in both words and actions, that the United States will work to ensure that the UN process continues to support this framework as the only realistic compromise that can bring this unfortunate and longstanding conflict to an end.” Among the letter’s signers are: House Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), House Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner (R-OH), House Majority Whip Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC), House Minority Whip Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) , Democratic Caucus Chairman Rep. John Larson, and Republican Conference Chairman Rep. Mike Pence. House Morocco Caucus Chairman, Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL) and Chairman of the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY), led the effort. Today’s letter reaffirms the broad bipartisan support in the US Congress for Morocco’s compromise proposal that was endorsed in a letter by 173 Members in 2007 (including the Democratic and Republican leadership).
The recommendations in the letter echo those made in a special report, “Why the Maghreb Matters,” issued last month by a panel of experts including former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, General Wesley Clark, Ambassador Stuart Eizenstat, among others, which stressed the need for increased US regional engagement with the nations of North Africa to protect US security interests and promote regional peace and prosperity.
Full letter and signers