While the Trump administration’s recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara is a big victory for the North African kingdom, experts say the move is unlikely to result in widespread support for Morocco’s claim to the territory.
Moroccan forces and the Polisario Front, an armed group demanding independence for Western Sahara, have been fighting over the disputed territory – a vast area bordering Morocco, Mauritania and Algeria that was previously under the Spanish control – for decades.
That plan, presented to the UN in 2007, proposes a system of limited self-government for Sahrawis, but the territory – as well as its foreign affairs and defence issues – will ultimately be under Morocco’s control.
The US previously recognised that plan as “serious, realistic and credible” – a position it repeated in its proclamation.
“This is something that’s been talked about for a long time but something that seemed inevitable at this point and something that we think advances the region and helps bring more clarity to where things are going,” senior White House adviser Jared Kushner told reporters.
Tensions could rise
Lawrence told Al Jazeera Morocco is hoping the US recognition will translate into more overt support from other sympathetic nations in order “to create some impetus at the United Nations to move towards a deal based on the Moroccan autonomy plan”.
But he added: “I don’t think that will happen, because the issue is so divisive at the United Nations.”
Yasmina Abouzzohour, a visiting fellow at Brookings Doha Center who specialises on North Africa, also said the US recognition would not affect the UN or European Union’s position on Western Sahara.
“Tensions may rise between Morocco and the Polisario Front, though military action is unlikely,” she told Al Jazeera in an email.
Tensions and military action have already been on the rise over the past weeks in the Western Sahara. International observers last month raised concerns after Moroccan security forces entered a UN-monitored zone in the area in violation of the 1991 ceasefire.