Western Sahara: Top U.S. Republican Condemns Trump Action on W. Sahara as ‘Rash And Cynical’

Cape Town — A former American secretary of state who is viewed as an “elder statesman” of President Donald Trump’s Republican Party has lashed out at Trump’s recognition of Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara.

In an op-ed commentary in today’s Washington Post, James A. Baker III condemned Trump’s move as “an astounding retreat from the principles of international law and diplomacy that the United States has espoused and respected for many years.”

Baker, who was President George H.W. Bush’s secretary of state and the UN secretary general’s personal envoy for Western Sahara between 1997 to 2004, added:

“This rash move disguised as diplomacy will contribute to the existing deadlock in resolving the long-standing conflict between Morocco and the people of Western Sahara over the status of that territory. Further, it threatens to complicate our relations with Algeria, an important strategic partner, and has negative consequences on the overall situation in North Africa.”

The Trump Administration’s recognition of Morocco’s claims over Western Sahara was announced in exchange for Rabat establishing diplomatic relations with Israel, which in turn is part of a joint effort by the U.S. and Israel to improve ties with Middle Eastern nations.

Baker wrote that “Trump deserves credit for seeking to rearrange the chessboard in the Middle East”, but added that the effort “should never come at the price of abandoning the United States’ commitment to self-determination, the bedrock principle on which our country was founded…

“The upcoming Biden administration would do well to rescind this rash and cynical action.”

Trump’s change of course on Western Sahara follows similar action in East Africa, where – despite denials of linkage from Khartoum – the timing of a decision by Sudan to recognise Israel indicated that it was part of a package of measures agreed with Washington in order to improve relations.

Baker served Republican presidents from the 1970s to 1990s. He is recognised for his negotiating skills and has been described as “the most successful secretary of state in generations”. He steered U.S. foreign policy during the end of the Cold War.

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