Rabat leaves Japan-hosted TICAD meeting over Polisario

By Khalid Mejdoub

RABAT (AA) – Morocco has withdrawn from the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) in Japan in protest of the participation of the Polisario Front.

The official Moroccan news agency, citing an unnamed source, said members of the Polisario delegation had obtained African Union accreditation cards to attend the meeting.

The agency said the Moroccan delegation had walked out of the meeting in protest of their participation.

Japan does not recognize Polisario Front as a state.

“Even if a group which claims itself as a state which Japan does not recognize was sitting in this room, this fact does not mean that Japan, in any way, implicitly or explicitly recognize it as a state,” Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono told the meeting.

Opened in Tokyo on Friday, the two-day ministerial meeting was co-organized by the Japanese government in cooperation with the UN, UN Development Program (UNDP), the World Bank, and the African Union Commission (AUC).

Western Sahara – a large territory in southern Morocco – has been the subject of dispute between Rabat and the Polisario Front for more than four decades.

After years of conflict, the two parties signed a UN-backed cease-fire in 1991.

The Polisario, meanwhile, has long called for a popular referendum in Western Sahara to decide the region’s political fate.