Russia-Africa Summit Leaves Polisario in the Cold

While Morocco’s Autonomy Plan is gathering momentum, a number of countries have distanced themselves from the Polisario Front in recent months.

Russia-Africa Summit Leaves Polisario in the Cold
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

By Hamza Guessous -Oct 23, 2019

Rabat – Polisario’s legitimacy claim has been dealt yet another blow: The separatist front will not take part in the first Russia-Africa summit on October 23 and 24 in Sochi. 

A number of reports indicate that Russia invited 54 AU member states to attend the Sochi summit. The eastern European giant, however, chose not to issue an invitation to the self-proclaimed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR).

Meanwhile, the Polisario Front made an announcement turning the slight from Russia in their own favor by claiming that their non-attendance was a Polisario decision. As Russia’s Vladimir Putin prepared to welcome African leaders to the Sotchi summit for a two days meetings, a SADR spokesperson announced that the self-proclaimed republic would abstain from participating in the Soshi summit. 

Russia worked outside the African Union (AU) partnership framework when inviting African states for the Sochi summit, according to SNN Sahara.

Offering an explanation for the Polisario’s non-attendance, SNN Sahara reported; “The Sochi Summit, to be held on October 23-24, is not a summit of partnership with the African Union and is therefore organized by a unilateral Russian initiative.”.

The AU has not signed a partnership agreement with Russia, unlike the European Union. For this reason, the Sochi Summit invitations were submitted to African nations recognized by the Russian government, rather than AU member states. 

Around 40 African countries, including Morocco, confirmed their participation, reported Russian state-owned agency TASS.

Russia is known for its strong diplomatic relations with Algeria. The north African country and neighbor to Morocco has been supporting and financing the Polisario Front for decades.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the current chair of the AU, will co-host the summit. 

Businessmen, leaders, and representatives of Russian, African, and international companies are also set to attend the event.

The major focus points of the summit are peace, trade, security, and politics, on both the continental and cross-continental levels.

Dwindling support for Polisario 

Russia’s choice not to include the separatist front reinforces the notion, growing even in pro-Polisario circles, that the separatist group is losing the legitimacy-recognition struggle in the international community. 

In addition to the increasing number of countries throwing their weight behind Morocco’s Western Sahara proposal, an equally increasing number of countries have distanced themselves from the Polisario Front in recent months. 

At this year’s Tokyo International Conference of African Development (TICAD) conference in August, Japan reiterated its support for Morocco and explicit dissociated itself from separatism in Western Sahara. The conference was organized in collaboration with the African Union Commission and so included all AU members. 

In spite of the presence of a Polisario delegation at the summit, the Japanese Foreign Affairs Ministry was adamant about the country’s position as one of the rejections of separatism. “Japan does not recognize Western Sahara a state, neither explicitly nor implicitly,” the ministry said.

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