Pompeo: US to establish diplomatic post in contested Western Sahara

Pompeo: US to establish diplomatic post in contested Western Sahara
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Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoRussia suggests military deployments to Cuba, Venezuela an option The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Altria - Winter is here for Democrats Overnight Defense & National Security — Nuclear states say no winners in global war MORE announced Thursday that the U.S. would establish a consulate in Western Sahara as part of President TrumpDonald TrumpClyburn says he's worried about losing House, 'losing this democracy' Sinema reignites 2024 primary chatter amid filibuster fight  Why not a Manchin-DeSantis ticket for 2024? MORE’s policy to recognize the contested territory as part of Morocco. 

“Pleased to announce the beginning of the process to establish a U.S. consulate in Western Sahara, and the inauguration of a virtual presence post effective immediately! We look forward to promoting economic and social development, and to engage the people of this region,” the secretary tweeted. 

The move is likely to further cement Trump’s decision to recognize Rabat’s claim to the contested territory that paved the way for Morocco to resume diplomatic ties with Israel earlier this month. 

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Pompeo said that absent construction on a physical consulate, the U.S. will immediately stand up a "virtual presence post" out of the U.S. Embassy in Rabat. 
 
Pompeo added that the U.S. is looking to support political negotiations to resolve issues between Morocco and the Polisario Front "within the framework of Morocco's autonomy plan." The U.S. first voiced support for the autonomy plan at the United Nations in 2016, but as part of the U.N.-led process for negotiations. The autonomy plan has mixed support among U.N. members. 
 
President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenSunday shows preview: Democrats' struggle for voting rights bill comes to a head David Weil: Wrong man, wrong place, wrong time  Biden's voting rights gamble prompts second-guessing MORE has yet to comment on Trump’s decision to recognize Western Sahara, the territory divided between areas occupied by Morocco and those of the indigenous Sahrawi people who are supported by the Algerian-backed Polisario Front. 

A 1991 ceasefire agreement ended years of fighting between the two sides but a planned referendum on the status of the territory deadlocked for 30 years amid international diplomatic efforts.  

Trump’s decision to recognize Western Sahara as part of Morocco drew pushback from bipartisan lawmakers as well as Europe and the United Nations, for what they say is throwing away decades of international mediation efforts and a disregard of the rights of the Sahrawi people.  

But supporters say the move was a recognition of the reality on the ground, and they have focused on celebrating the momentum of the Trump administration’s success in increasing the number of Muslim-majority countries recognizing Israel. 

Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerKushner investment firm raises more than B: report Trump: Netanyahu 'never wanted peace' with Palestinians Biden celebrates start of Hanukkah MORE, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, traveled this week on the first commercial flight between Israel and Morocco as part of meetings establishing diplomatic and economic ties between the U.S., Israel and Morocco. 

“It is now time to put the region and all of its people on a truly transformative path toward stability, security and prosperity,” Kushner said following a meeting with King Mohammed VI of Morocco earlier this week, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Morocco is the fourth Muslim-majority country that the U.S. has helped to broker ties with Israel following the U.A.E., Bahrain and Sudan, as part of the Abraham Accords.