UAE inaugurates consulate in Morocco's Western Sahara

'Historic' step part of UAE's longstanding relationship with Morocco

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The UAE inaugurated its consulate in Laayoune on Wednesday morning, opening the diplomatic mission in the Western Sahara in a ceremony attended by Moroccan foreign minister Nasser Bourita and Al Asri Saeed Ahmed Al Dhaheri, the UAE's Ambassador to Morocco.

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, announced the "historic" plans for the consulate last month.

Commenting on the opening via videoconference call, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the UAE's Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, said it represented "a continuation of a brilliant journey of unity and cooperation supported by the leadership of the two countries.

"The opening of a UAE consulate in Laayoune will be one of the positive results of the established relationship between the two countries. Its presence in the Moroccan region will represent a major boost in bilateral relations,” he said.

"The UAE's position is firm in standing with Morocco in its fair causes in regional and international fora."

Mr Al Dhaheri added that the opening of the diplomatic mission in Laayoune was a concrete expression of the UAE's support for Moroccan sovereignty over its southern regions. He said it would also strengthen trade, investment and cultural ties between the two countries.

Morocco’s King Mohammed VI had said he was proud that the UAE made the move to open a consulate and said he was not surprised given Abu Dhabi’s long commitment to “championing just causes”.

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 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.

The event was held ahead of Friday's anniversary of the 'Green March', a peaceful mass protest that took place on November 6, 1975 against the Spanish occupation of Western Sahara, which is commemorated by a national holiday in Morocco.