The State Department said Thursday the United States will open a consulate in Western Sahara following President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Morocco’s sovereignty over the disputed region.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement that the process of opening the facility has begun.
That process involves finding and securing a suitable property for a mission before personnel are hired. It was not immediately clear when or where it would be open but until then Pompeo said the US Embassy in Rabat would operate a virtual consulate to serve Western Sahara.
Trump announced on December 10 that the US would recognise Morocco’s claim to Western Sahara as part of a deal for the North African country to normalise relations with Israel.
The Trump administration has put a priority on securing such deals between Arab states and Israel and has thus far concluded four: the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco.
There's no Africa without Western Sahara. pic.twitter.com/e384d6CKdG— Africa For All (@AfricaForAll2) December 21, 2020
Jared Kushner, son-in-law and adviser to the US president, took his seat Tuesday alongside an Israeli delegation on the first Israel-Morocco direct commercial flight, before signing a declaration which provides for the opening of a US consulate in the Western Sahara port city of Dakhla.
“Pleased to announce the beginning of the process to establish a US consulate in Western Sahara,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted Thursday.
“Effective immediately, we are inaugurating a virtual presence post for Western Sahara,” he added in a statement, specifying that the post would be “followed soon by a fully functioning consulate.”
“This virtual presence post will be managed by the US Embassy in Rabat” with a focus on promoting economic and social development, Pompeo said, without providing a timetable for the consulate.
He added that the United States “will continue to support political negotiations to resolve the issues between Morocco and the Polisario.”
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