Western Sahara

  1. Ivanka Trump visits Western Sahara

    Moroccan media report that Donald Trump's daughter has been visiting the disputed territory of Western Sahara, which has been agitating for independence from Morocco for decades.

    A photo on news site le360 appears to show Ivanka Trump sitting on a beach in the city of Dakhla.

    Under President Trump, the US agreed to recognise Morocco's claim to the whole of Western Sahara, in return for Morocco normalising relations with Israel.

    Western Sahara is not a common destination for tourists. The UK government, among others, advises travellers to remain vigilant at all times because of the likelihood of attacks.

    Ms Trump's choice of local attire, known as melhfa, in this photo has bemused some online while others have praised her:

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  2. EU wades into Algeria-Spain row over Western Sahara

    BBC World Service

    The European Union has urged Algeria to reverse its decision to suspend a cooperation agreement with Spain, amid a dispute over Western Sahara.

    On Wednesday, Algeria suspended its 2002 friendship treaty with Spain, threatening trade ties, including supplies of Algerian gas.

    In March, Spain publicly recognised Morocco's plan to grant Western Sahara autonomy rather than full independence, resolving a diplomatic spat with Morocco but angering Algeria.

    Algeria supports the Polisario movement which is seeking independence for Western Sahara.

  3. Algeria breaks with Spain over Western Sahara

    Richard Hamilton

    BBC World Service Newsroom

    Members of the Saharawi community and supporters are seen with flags and placards during a demonstration in front of the Congress of Deputies where they have gathered to protest against the Spanish government's support for Morocco's autonomy plan for Western Sahara, which grants a limited autonomy to Western Sahara - March 2022
    Image caption: The Saharawi community in Spain has been protesting over the recognition of Morocco's autonomy plan

    Algeria has suspended a 20-year-old co-operation treaty with Spain, after Madrid reversed its neutral stance towards Western Sahara.

    In March Spain publicly recognised Morocco's autonomy plan for the disputed territory to end a diplomatic spat with the kingdom, Algeria's arch-rival.

    Morocco controls around 80% of the Western Sahara.

    The rest is held by the Algerian-backed Polisario movement, which fought a 15-year war with Morocco after Spanish forces withdrew in 1975.

    International efforts to resolve the dispute have repeatedly failed.

  4. Morocco and Spain mend ties over Western Sahara row

    BBC World Service

    Prime Minister of Morocco Aziz Akhannouch (R) and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez (L) during their meeting in Rabat, Morocco, 07 April 2022

    Morocco and Spain have announced they have turned a new page in relations - after Madrid pledged support for Morocco's autonomy plan for the disputed Western Sahara.

    During a meeting in Rabat, King Mohammed and the Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said they were willing to usher in a new phase, "based on mutual respect, mutual trust, permanent consultation and frank and faithful co-operation".

    In a statement, Mr Sanchez reaffirmed the autonomy plan as a realistic option for Western Sahara.

    Morocco considers the former Spanish colony its own.

    But the Algeria-backed Polisario Front wants to establish its own state.

  5. Algeria to boycott African handball cup in Morocco

    Ahmed Rouaba

    BBC News

    Algerian handball team during a match
    Image caption: The African Men's Handball Championship is more than four decades old and takes places every two years

    Algeria's national handball team will not take part in the African Men's Handball Championship to be held in Morocco from 13 to 23 January, local media report.

    At an event to draw the matches in Ivory Coast on Wednesday, Algeria was not among the participating nations.

    The boycott of the Algerian side was expected, after it emerged that some of the games would be hosted in the city of Layoun in the disputed territory of Western Sahara.

    Morocco claims sovereignty of Western Sahara, while Algeria backs the Polisario movement fighting for independence in the former Spanish colony.

  6. Western Sahara to Libya

    Video content

    Video caption: Simon Reeve continues his epic journey around the world following the Tropic of Cancer.

    The second leg of Simon Reeve's journey sees him dodge the Moroccan secret police in Western Sahara and travel on one of the world's longest trains.

  7. Polisario leader arrives in Algeria from Spain

    Brahim Ghali in 2016
    Image caption: Brahim Ghali denies abuses in the Sahrawi refugee camps in Algeria where Polisario is based

    The leader of a Western Saharan separatist group arrived in Algeria early on Wednesday, after leaving a hospital in Spain where he was being treated for Covid-19.

    Brahim Ghali, the Polisario Front leader, left Spain at 01:40 local time (23:40 GMT) on a chartered plane.

    "He arrived safe and sound," the Reuters news agency quoted Jalil Mohamed, the Polisario Front's spokesman, as saying.

    The move came after a judge in Madrid turned down a request by prosecutors to detain him in relation to alleged human rights abuses.

    His presence in Spain had triggered a diplomatic row between Spain and Morocco, which claims sovereignty over Western Sahara - a former Spanish colony.

  8. Polisario leader 'leaving Spain back to Algeria'

    BBC World Service

    Polisario Front leader, Brahim Ghali
    Image caption: The Polisario leader was being treated for Covid-19 in Spain

    The leader of a Western Saharan separatist group has left a hospital in Spain and is flying back to Algeria, a spokesman for the group said.

    The move comes after a judge in Madrid turned down a request by prosecutors to detain the Polisario Front leader, Brahim Ghali, in relation to alleged human rights abuses.

    Mr Ghali was being treated for Covid-19 in Spain.

    He denies abuses in the Sahrawi refugee camps in Algeria where Polisario is based.

    Mr Ghali's presence in Spain has angered Morocco, which claims sovereignty over Western Sahara - a former Spanish colony.

    Madrid has accused Rabat of retaliating by letting thousands of migrants flood into Spain's north African cities of Ceuta and Melilla

  9. Spanish judge refuses to detain Polisario leader

    BBC World Service

    Media outside hospital
    Image caption: Members have been waiting outside the Spanish hospital where Brahim Ghali has been treated

    A judge in Madrid has turned down a request by prosecutors to detain an African separatist leader who's been accused of torture and genocide connected with Spain's former colony of Western Sahara.

    The decision leaves the Polisario Front leader Brahim Ghali free to leave Spain when he's recovered from Covid-19.

    Mr Ghali's lawyer wants the court to throw out the case brought by dissidents.

    Mr Ghali denies abuses in Sahrawi refugee camps in Algeria.

    His presence in Spain has angered Morocco, which claims sovereignty over Western Sahara.

    Madrid has accused Rabat of retaliating by letting thousands of migrants enter Spain's North African cities of Ceuta and Melilla.

  10. Polisario leader due to testify in Spanish court

    BBC World Service

    Brahim Ghali
    Image caption: Brahim Ghali is being treated for Covid-19 in Spain

    The leader of Western Sahara's independence movement, Brahim Ghali, is due to appear before a Spanish court to answer allegations of torture and genocide.

    The head of the Polisario Front is being treated for Covid-19 in Logroño, northern Spain, and will testify via a video link with Madrid's National Court.

    Mr Ghali's presence in Spain has angered Morocco, which claims the former Spanish colony.

    Last month more than 8,000 Moroccans crossed the border into Spain's North African enclave of Ceuta in an action which Spanish politicians say was supported by the Moroccan authorities.

  11. Spanish court denies summoning Polisario leader

    Ahmed Rouaba

    BBC News

    The top court in Spain has denied reports that it summoned Polisario Front leader Brahim Ghali over torture allegations made against him.

    "Mr Ghali has not been summoned. The judge has only asked the police to check about the identity of the person said to be hospitalised in Logrono’" news agency AFP quoted a court spokesman as saying.

    Local media previously suggested that Mr Ghali had been summoned by the court to respond to a claim of torture made against him by Polisario dissident Fadel Breika who also holds Spanish nationality.

    The government had confirmed the Polisario Front leader was allowed into the country to receive treatment for Covid -19 for "strictly humanitarian reasons".

    The move angered the Moroccan government which complained to the Spanish authorities about the presence of Mr Ghali in the country.

    Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony, is disputed by the Polisario Front and Morocco. The Polisario Front has been campaigning for the territory's independence for decades.

  12. Polisario leader treated for coronavirus in Spain

    Ahmed Rouaba

    BBC News

    Brahim Ghali
    Image caption: Brahim Ghali leads the Polario Front which is fighting for an independent state

    The leader of the Polisario Front in Western Sahara, Brahim Ghali, has been flown to Spain for treatment after catching coronavirus.

    The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic confirmed in a statement "the president is under treatment for Covid-19 and medical surveillance".

    The statement did not however indicate where the 73-year old was being treated and denied reports that he had cancer.

    Mr Ghali was transferred to Spain for strictly humanitarian reasons in order to receive medical treatment, a source in the Spanish foreign Ministry told the AFP news agency.

    A former Spanish colony, Western Sahara has been the subject of a dispute since 1975 between its indigenous people led by Polisario Front and Morocco, which claims it as part of its territory.

    The Polisario Front proclaimed the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) in 1976, with a government in exile in Algeria.

    Brahim Ghali was elected leader of the Polisario Front and president of the SADR in July 2016 following the death of long-term president Mohamed Abdelaziz Ezzedine.

    A seasoned military leader, described both as a "hard-line supporter" and "historic figure", he was one of Polisario's founding members in 1973 and led the first raids against the occupying Spanish forces that sparked the armed struggle for Western Saharan independence.

  13. Western Sahara's Polisario says its police chief killed

    BBC World Service

    A woman holds a Sahrawi flag reading 'Free Sahara'
    Image caption: Western Sahara has been the subject of dispute between its indigenous people led by Polisario Front and Morocco

    The Polisario Front - which seeks independence from Morocco for the Western Sahara region - says its police chief has been killed.

    In a statement, the group said Addah al-Bendir died while on a military mission in the northern region of Tifariti in Polisario controlled territory.

    Local media say he was killed in a Moroccan drone attack.

    A former Spanish colony, Western Sahara has been the subject of dispute since 1975 between its indigenous people led by Polisario Front and Morocco.

    In December, President Donald Trump said the US recognised Morocco's claim over the territory, after it became the latest Arab country to normalise relations with Israel.

  14. Morocco suspends relations with German embassy

    US and Moroccan flags next to a US State Department-authorised map of Morocco recognising the internationally-disputed territory of the Western Sahara
    Image caption: Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony, has been the subject of a dispute

    Morocco has announced that it has suspended contacts with the German embassy in the country over its stance on Western Sahara.

    The country's foreign affairs ministry cited "deep disagreements concerning crucial issues”, without elaborating.

    A senior Moroccan diplomat cited Germany's reaction to the US decision in December to recognise Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara as a reason for the suspension of relations, Reuters news agency reported.

    The diplomat also cited Germany's decision not to invite Morocco to an international meeting about Libya last year.

    There was no immediate response from the German embassy.

    Germany called a UN Security Council meeting to discuss the issue after former US President Donald Trump said Washington recognised Morocco's sovereignty over Western Sahara.

    Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony, was annexed by Morocco in 1975. Since then it has been the subject of a dispute between the Moroccans and the Saharawi people, led by the Polisario Front.

  15. US plans to open consulate in Western Sahara

    BBC World Service

    : A woman wearing a mask displays the Saharawi flag during the demonstration in San Sebastian.

    US and Moroccan officials have had talks in Western Sahara on plans to open an American consulate in the disputed territory.

    The visit by the US envoy, David Schenker, follows President Trump's controversial decision last month to recognise Morocco's sovereignty over Western Sahara - where the indigenous Sahrawi people want a state of their own.

    Mr Trump's move overturned America's longstanding, neutral position on the dispute, and was part of a deal in which Morocco agreed to re-establish relations with Israel.