Morocco Cuts Diplomatic Ties With Iran Over Western Sahara Feud

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Back from Tehran, Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita received on Tuesday the chargé d'affaire of the Iranian embassy to sign the rupture of diplomatic ties between the two countries, asking him "to immediately leave the Kingdom of Morocco".

The Western Sahara region has effectively been split by an earthen wall separating an area controlled by Morocco that it claims as its southern provinces and territory controlled by the Polisario.

In 2009, Morocco cut diplomatic links with Iran, accusing it of questioning Bahrain's ruling party. The ties were restored around 2014.

The Moroccan foreign minister said his country has "strong evidence of Iran's involvement through its proxy Hezbollah in supporting the Polisario Front financially and through training of its members to undermine Morocco's security and stability".

Previously in 1981, Tehran cut ties with Rabat following King Hassan II's decision to give asylum to the US-backed Shah, who had been forced into exile after the Iranian Revolution of 1979.

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A United Nations Security Council resolution adopted last week at the urging of the US calls for Morocco and the Polisario Front to resume peace talks. The Polisario, the Spanish acronym for the separatist movement, represents the Sahrawi people that populate the region. Adding that the combination of support for the rebel group, a history of tense Moroccan relations with Iran, and current negotiations about the nuclear deal involving Tehran's regional role, explain the timing behind the decision.

But Hezbollah has rejected Morocco's claims that it provided arms to the Western Sahara independence movement, saying Rabat was using "baseless arguments" to serve another agenda.

The North African state, which is led by a monarch, has close relations with Tehran's arch-rival Saudi Arabia.

Morocco, which controls 90 percent of the territory including its three main towns, insists it is an integral part of the kingdom and only semi-autonomy is on the table.

The resolution extending the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) by six months represents a turning point in the handling of the Sahrawi issue by the Security Council, said M'Hamed Khedad, the Sahrawi coordinator with MINURSO.

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