“Nous avons un voisin qui a des frontières mobiles” (Bouteflika, 1975)

” Nous avons un voisin qui a des frontières mobiles.” C’était l’expression utilisée par le Ministre des Affaires Etrangères algérien, Abdelaziz Bouteflika pour qualifier les ambitions expansionistes du Maroc. L’occasion est un face-à-face avec le Chancelier américain, Henry Kissinger tenu le 17/12/1975, un peu plus d’un mois après l’agression marocaine contre le peuple du Sahara Occidental.
Les propos se trouvent dans un document déclassé par le Département d’Etat américain dont voici l’extrait concernant le problème du Sahara occidental.

K : Let’s talk about the Sahara. You should know we put no pressure on Spain for any particular solution. In fact, we attempted to dissuade the King Hassan II for marching in. Did you hear what Moynihan said? He said if the russian took over the Sahara, there would soon be a shortage of sand (laughter) We frankly want to stay out of the Sahara question. It is not a heroic posture.

B: I Think if we want to adresse the problem correctly we are obliged to speak frankly, and directly. The problem of the Sahara is a precedent for the world ans is a problem whiwh is important also for the Middle East.

K : Why for the ME?

B: If there is an accord between Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Israel, do you think also that the Arab world would abandon the Palestinians? It is the same problem; You can’t abandon the people of Sahara, or anymore the people of Namibia. We have Morocco and Mauritania involved, and they try to settle it. Now there is a decision of the International Court of Justice.

K: It was ambiguous.

B: No, it considered each side’s brief in detail and came out for the one peaceful solution.

K: I don’t know what self-determination means for the Sahara. I can understand it for the Palestinians, but it is a alightly different problem.

B: The population of Qatar is no more important.

K : But they had a sheikh. They had an independent state.

B : But they can be independent also. Have you been to Dubai?

K : No. Because our security people think my reception would be too enthusiastic. They won’t let me (laughter)

B : I don’t think either side – those who encouraged ou or thoe who discouraged you – have any right to do so. They are countries that are worthy of being seen.

K : What will happen in the Sahara?

B : I would want to see if you could give your consideration to proposing a solution, because it i important.

K : What solution?

B : There is only one kind of solution. It is a problem of principle. There could be a referendum, and Algeria would accept the results of the referendum. If they want to be with Morocco or with Mauritania, Algeria would have no problem. Or to be independent.

K: Can the referendum take place while the Moroccans are there?

B : There would have to be guarantees. There can’t be a referendum under a bayonet. They could have done it under the Spanish, because they were leaving.

K : The mauritanians are there too. Did they split it half and half?

B: Maybe half and half, but there are many aspects of the problem. Fishing; there is the political problem and the economic problem and the sovereignity problem. It is absolutely excluded that Morocco follow neither the ICJ pr the UNO. The Ivory Coast can’t judge right. One of the judges on the ICJ said it was a question of monarchical solidarity. He told me. In the Hague.

K : One of the few international bodies which you don’t dominate.

B: It’s the same for the U.S.!

K : I repeat, we have no interest in the problem, as such.

B : But you, yourself, should look at it.

K : Why?

B: Because you work with great subtetly. I have to tell you frankly – perhaps it was not by you.

K : It was done by you.

B : Your position was one of principle, it was very clear. Your presse – Newsweek, The New York Times – were very objective on the problem. And we find that the U.S. could have stopped the Green March. The U.S. could have stopped it, or favored it.

K : That’s not true.

B : We think on the contrary that France played a crude role. There was no delicacy, no subtlety. Bourguiba, Senghor – they tried to use what influence remained in France/ bongo. No finesse, no research. I don’t know if thi corresponds to our situation; but there are sentiments, an we were very affected because we thought it was an anti-algerian position.

K : we don’t have an anti-algerian position. The only question was how much to invest. To prevent the Green March would have meant hurting our relations completely with Morocco, in effect an embargo.

B : You could have done it. You could stop economic aid and military aid.

K : But that would have meant ruining our relations with Morocco completely.

B : No. The king of Morocco would not have gone to the Soviets.

K : But we don’t have that interest in the Sahara.

B : But you have interests in Spain, ans in Morocco.

K : And in Algeria.

B : An you favored one.

K : I don’t think we favored ne side. We tried to stay out of it.

B : Your role could never be marginal or devoid of interest because obviously there was military cooperation with Morocco. So, given that, you could not be neutral between Morocco and Algeria. So, I understand you had to be, or appear to be, favoring Morocco, because of that.

K : (To Sabbagh, who is interpreting) But what the Foreing Minister complains about is that we didn’t favor Algeria. To take his position, we would have had to reverse positions completely.

B : Maybe it would have been easy to take the principle of self-determination as a starting point. Now we have a neighbor which has mobile frontiers –with Mauritania, with Niger, and with Algeria. Moving frontiers; if Morocco occupies it with a minimum of legality, it’s a significant precedent. If in the region there is the precedent of broken frontiers, there is the risk of conflict. It’s not too late for you to aid a path to a solution. It would have to have the maximum of guarantees of the UN for a referendum, and Algeria would accept it. Neither the ICJ not the UN recognized the rights of Morocco or Mauritania.

K : Let me think about this ans I’ll contact you through our ambassador.  When you will send us an ambassador to Washington?

B : Effectively, your remark is pertinent. At the beginning of the year we will designate someone. I think sincerely that it is in out interest to pick someone appropriate. I will solve the problem very, very rapidly.

K : It would be helpful if we had someone in Washington.

B : I wan to find someone of enough stature to fit into that position.

K : He will be well received in Washington.

B : This is the way we think about it, Dr Kissinger, and we have established such a wonderful rapport based on cooperation, and in the economic field we have established a tremendous cooperation that we will never forget. In the political field, the Middle East, Dr Kissinger can have no complaints.

K : No, you have been very helpful.

B : If you had a problem with Cuba or Vietnam or Cambodia, we would be very glad, discreetly…

K : Our UN people don’t always understand our relationship. But I agree we have had a very positive relationship, which I have valued.

K : I repeat and emphasize we are true friends. We have nothing to hide; we don’t maneuver. Just this gesture that we are here at the table as your guests indicates it. You could have said, “Let’s go off into a corner somewhere.”

K : Exactly. Let me into the question of a referendum.

B : Yes, you said provided withdrawal is not a factor. But it must be also provided there are enough strong guarantees that the people can decide freely. You know assassinations can be rife. We don’t want remaining problem. Genocide.

K : in the Sahara?

B : I’m completely positive. It is a problem of ingterests. I don’t know why Mauritania wants frontiers like that or why Algeria has to be frightened. It is not healthy. If Morocco and Mauritania partition it, it is not politics.

K : We have not played a very acive role. Because we have enough problems wigthout taking on new ones. But I will look into it and I will be in touch.

B : Think about it.

K : I will think about it.

B : I don’t think you want a new state in the region.

K : If it had developed, we would have accepted it. Guinea Bissau, Cape Verde, we have accepted.

B : There is great wealth there. In 10 or 12 years, it will be the Kuwait of the region.

K : But we didn’t oppose it. We had no particular interest.

B : The equilibrium that we worked fot in the region, it is important that it be maintained. I don’t have the feeling that in the region your interests coincide with disorder.

K : I agree with you.

B : I was astonished to see France and Tunisia working together as “Mediterranean powers”. With the problems in the Middle East and Cyprus, with the problems existing in Maghreb, to speak of the Mediterranean is to be optimistic.

K : We were basicalle inactive. We were not doing a great deal on either side. We didn’t help you, but not Morocco either.

B : In the Middle East you have seen the situation of occupation of territory, and fait accomplis, and everyone speaks of negotiations. If you speak with the Mauritanians, there is no reason to defy the decision of the ICJ. It was the Ivory Coast and the others. I woud add this whatever elements favored Morocco were disintoxicated after the decision of the ICJ. It was a kind of mystification.

K : Let me think about what if anything can be done. I’ll think about it. I never like to promise anything I cannot do.

B : If you can.

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