South Africa and Morocco will resume diplomatic ties more than a decade after Morocco withdrew its ambassador from Pretoria, South African President Jacob Zuma revealed in a City Press interview published on Sunday.
Diplomatic relations between South Africa and the North African country reached a nadir in 2004 when Morocco recalled its ambassador following Pretoria’s recognition of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR).
The Sahrawi Republic is a partially recognised state that controls a thin strip of an area in the Western Sahara region and claims sovereignty over the entire territory of Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony.
Morocco, which controls three-quarters of the territory, disputes this and withdrew from the African Union (AU), then known as the Organisation of African Unity, in 1984 following the latter’s recognition of the SADR.
But Zuma told the City Press during the interview that “Morocco is an African nation and we need to have relations with them. We never had problems with them anyway; they were the first to withdraw diplomatic relations.”
The reestablishment of diplomatic ties follows a meeting last week between the South African president and Moroccan King Mohammed on the sidelines of the African Union-European Union summit.
“They felt that even if we differ on the Western Sahara issues, the two countries should have a relationship,” Zuma said about Moroccan officials’ position at the meeting.
Pretoria’s official position on the SADR is to support “self-determination and decolonisation for the Western Sahara”.
Furthermore, the reestablishment of ties with Rabat is not likely to impress other members of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress as one of Africa’s oldest liberation movements that have opposed the occupation of the desert area.