UPDATE – Morocco severs ties with Iran


By Khaled Majdoub

RABAT (AA) – Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs Nasser Bourita said on Tuesday that his country had severed ties with Tehran over alleged ties between Hezbollah and a separatist group in Western Sahara.

Speaking to reporters in the Moroccan capital Rabat, Bourita added that his country had decided to close its embassy in Tehran and asked Iran's ambassador to leave the country.

Bourita said the move was due to “the engagement of the Iranian-backed Lebanese Hezbollah in a relationship with the Polisario [front] , and this threatens the security and stability of the country. ”

Occupied by Spain until 1975, Western Sahara — a large territory in southern Morocco — has remained the subject of dispute between Rabat and the Algeria-backed Polisario Front for more than four decades.

Since the early 1970s, the Polisario Front, a self-proclaimed national liberation movement backed by Algeria, has demanded an independent state in Western Sahara.

Rabat says the region is an integral part of Morocco. It has, however, proposed a system by which Western Sahara might enjoy a degree of autonomy while remaining under Moroccan sovereignty.

The Polisario Front, for its part, wants to hold a popular referendum in Western Sahara to decide the region’s political fate.

Bourita added that Morocco had evidence of funding from Hezbollah to the Polisario Front.

“Rabat has information that the diplomats at the Iranian embassy in Algeria have facilitated the meeting between leaders of Hezbollah and leaders of the Polisario [Front], ” he said.

The Moroccan foreign minister added that there was evidence of Hezbollah providing weapons to the separatist group as well as “information confirming the relationship between Polisario and Hezbollah, since November 2016. ”

Hezbollah, in a written statement, has called Morocco’s accusation as an “unsubstantiated charge” originated from “the pressure of the U.S., Israel and Saudi Arabia ” to cut diplomatic relations with Iran.

Iranian authorities have not yet reacted to the Moroccan foreign minister’s remarks.