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One of the world’s longest running conflicts–the three-way struggle between Morocco, the separatist Polisario Front and its protector, Algeria–is finally posed to come to a peaceful end.
Morocco put forward an enhanced autonomy plan more than 10 years ago.The plan would allow the Polisario fighters to lay down their arms and move home without fear of arrest or persecution in exchange for running a semi-independent government inside of Morocco. It would enjoy sovereignty similar that of a state in the U.S.
The plan was quickly dismissed by the Polisario, a rebel group holed up in Saharan wastes outside of Tindouf, Algeria, as well as by the Algerians themselves, who use the rebels as a tool in their regional rivalry with Morocco. The three-way conflict might have made sense during the Cold War, when Morocco was America’s ally and Algeria often travelled in a Soviet orbit, but those days are long gone.
Now Algeria and Morocco face a common foe: religious extremists. Increasingly, it appears that some members of Polisario Front have been assisting terrorists and drug dealers cross the desert and find guns or foot soldiers. “Le Quotidien d’Oran”, an Algerian weekly that is generally pro-government, warned that terrorism’s threat should make the Algeria rethink its support for the Polisario. This June 2005 article has proved to be prescient.
Now, business and political leaders are starting to say the same things.Even a former prime minister of Algeria is now says what was once unthinkable: it is time to put aside support for the Polisario in exchange for regional unity against terrorism.
Finally, in the Polisario camps outside of Tindouf, through radio broadcasts and…