Tunisia and Morocco recall envoys in W.Sahara row
Published: Aug 28, 2022 09:08 PM
Tunisia announced on Saturday the recall of its ambassador to Morocco for consultations, a day after the kingdom did the same in response to Tunisia's president hosting the Polisario movement's leader.

The Polisario wants an independent state in the Western Sahara, which ­Morocco sees as a sovereign part of its own territory.

Tunisian President Kais Saied on Friday hosted Polisario chief Brahim Ghali who arrived to attend the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD).

In response to what it called a "hostile" and "unnecessarily provocative" act, Morocco immediately withdrew its Tunis ambassador for consultations and cancelled its own participation in the high-profile conference.

"Tunisia has maintained its total neutrality on the Western Sahara issue in line with international law," the ­Tunisian Foreign Ministry said in a statement. "This position will not change until the concerned parties find a peaceful solution acceptable to all."

Saied spent much of Friday welcoming African leaders arriving for the ­TICAD conference, including Ghali who is also president of the self-proclaimed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR).

Morocco accused Tunisia of "unilaterally" inviting the Polisario chief "against the advice of Japan and in violation of the process of preparation and established rules." But Tunisia said the African Union had issued a direct invitation to the SADR, a member state, to join the conference, noting that it had attended previous such gatherings - alongside Morocco.

It is not the first time that Ghali's travels have sparked Moroccan anger.

In April 2021, he headed to Spain to be treated for COVID-19, sparking a yearlong diplomatic row between Spain and the North African kingdom.

That only ended after Madrid dropped its decades-long stance of neutrality over the Western Sahara - a former Spanish colony - and backed a Moroccan plan for limited self-rule there.