U.S. draft budget does not include a consulate in Western Sahara

A draft bill for next-year budget says that funds should not be allocated in the construction of a consulate in Western Sahara. The U.S. has yet recognized Morocco’s sovereignty to facilitate relations between the Kingdom and Israel.

US Committee of Appropriations
The draft bill of the U.S. budget for 2022 excludes the construction of a consulate in Western Sahara, stopping a process started during Trump’s administration and part of the Morocco-Israel normalization agreement | © U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations

The United States Senate Committee on Appropriations, which writes the legislation allocating annual federal funds and exceptional expenditures, released a draft bill for the budget of the “Department of State, foreign operations, and related programs for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2022“.

And the bill made clear that none of the funds […] may be used to support the construction or operation in the Western Sahara of a United States consulate“.

Instead of building a consulate in the city of Dakhla, which would acts as an official diplomatic branch in the region, the Act proposes to allocate funds for assistance, and support of “diplomatic efforts to facilitate a political settlement of the conflict in the Western Sahara“.

If passed, refusing to build a diplomatic office would go against the role played by the United States in the Israel–Morocco normalization agreement and declarations during Donald J. Trump’s administration.

Signed in December 2020, the Israel–Morocco normalization agreement was the start of official relations between both countries. Morocco officially recognized Israel and established full diplomatic and trade relations with the country.

The Western Sahara region | © Wikipedia interactive map

The U.S. recognized Morocco’s sovereignty as the Kingdom recognized Israel

In this agreement, the United States agreed to recognize Morocco’s claim of sovereignty over Western Sahara, a vast area bordering Morocco, Mauritania and Algeria.

Few days after the Israel-Morocco normalization agreement, Mike Pompeo, Secretary of State at the time, was “pleased to announce the beginning of the process to establish a U.S. consulate in Western Sahara” on Twitter.

Morocco claimed the territory since Spain left its colony in 1976. The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, also known as Western Sahara, was proclaimed by the Polisario front, which wants total independence of the region. Considered as a non-self-governing territory by the United Nations since 1963, a ceasefire has been in place since 1991 in the region.

But in February, a letter signed by 25 Democrat or Republican legislators and led by Patrick Leahy, the current chairman of the appropriations committee, urged Joe Biden to reverse this “abrupt” and “short-sighted” decision to “officially recognize the Kingdom of Morocco’s illegitimate claims of sovereignty over Western Sahara“.

Later in May, Joe Biden had reportedly decided not to reverse the previous administration’s decision for protecting Israel. As the legislators are in the middle of tough negotiations for the 2022 federal budget, the position of Biden’s administration on Western Sahara therefore seems to become clearer, and diverging from Donald Trump’s.

The “Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2022” needs to be passed by Congress, and signed by the President. The congress is composed of the Senate and the House of representatives. Democrats have a very tight minority in the Senate and very small majority the House of representatives.

Read more about Morocco

Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2022, U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations, October 2021, Free access, PDFMike Pompeo, Twitter, December 2020, Free accessInhofe, Leahy Lead 25 Colleagues To Urge Biden To Reverse Misguided Western Sahara Decision, Patrick Leahy website, February 2021, Free access

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