Feb 24, 2021 - World

Biden in no rush to reverse Trump's move on Western Sahara

A Moroccan flag waves in Western Sahara. Photo: Fadel Senna/AFP via Getty

There are no signs that the Biden administration intends to roll back the Trump administration’s recognition of Western Sahara as part of Morocco anytime soon.

Why it matters: Trump’s move on Western Sahara was a dramatic shift in U.S. policy. Undoing it would damage relations with Morocco and could cause Rabat to reverse its promise to resume diplomatic relations with Israel, made as part of the deal with Trump.

The big picture: Western Sahara is a sparsely populated, disputed territory that borders Morocco on the northwest corner of Africa. It was formerly controlled by Spain and is now claimed by Morocco despite international opposition and resistance from the indigenous population.

The state of play: The Western Sahara decision is among several Trump policies that are under review at the State Department.

  • But current and former U.S. officials tell me the administration seems to be in no rush to deal with the issue.

Driving the news: A bipartisan group of 27 senators led by Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) signed a letter last week urging Biden to roll back the Western Sahara decision. In the letter, they claimed:

“The abrupt decision by the previous administration … was short-sighted, undermined decades of consistent U.S. policy, and alienated a significant number of African nations. We respectfully urge you to reverse this misguided decision and recommit the United States to the pursuit of a referendum on self-determination for the Sahrawi people of Western Sahara."

The latest: State Department spokesperson Ned Price said he had no updates on the matter when asked in Monday's press briefing,

  • He stressed that the Biden administration supports Morocco-Israel normalization, and supports the UN's work to monitor a ceasefire in Western Sahara and push for a referendum.
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