Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed said the UAE stands firmly with Morocco as the Emirates announced plans to open the first Arab consulate in Western Sahara on Wednesday.
The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, spoke to Morocco’s King Mohammed VI by phone to discuss the “important historic decision”, state-run Wam news agency reported.
King Mohammed said the decision was "an embodiment of the UAE's firm stance with the Kingdom of Morocco in its just causes at regional and international platforms."
The consulate will be opened in the city of Laayoune, the most populous city in the disputed Western Saharan region. Morocco administers around 80 per cent of the 266,000 square kilometres of the sparsely populated desert region with the remainder held by the Algerian supported the self-declared Sahrawi Arab Republic. The breakaway state is not recognised by the UN and Morocco’s claim to the region is supported by a number of Arab and African states with the tacit approval of the US and France.
King Mohammed said he was proud that the UAE was the first Arab state to make the move to open a consulate in Laayoune but said he was not surprised given Abu Dhabi's long commitment to "championing just causes".
"Sheikh Mohamed expressed his appreciation for the leadership of King Mohammed VI, emphasising the bonds of brotherhood and joint cooperation between the two countries," Wam reported.
Several African states, including Equatorial Guinea, Zambia, Eswatini and several other African nations, opened consulates in Western Sahara over the past week, Morocco's state news agency reported. The move was seen as a means to bolster support for Morocco's claim to the region.
The UN has for decades been attempting to negotiate a settlement to the conflict – that has previously seen bouts of fighting and a simmering insurgency –but attempts to revive talks in recent years have yielded few results. The UN’s peacekeeping mission in Western Sahara has not commented on the recent developments.