A map recently published by NATO in relation to its project the Defence Education Enhancement Programme (DEEP) unexpectedly showed Morocco’s border as extending into the territory of Western Sahara in accordance with Rabat’s territorial claims. The land, disputed by the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic and its governing nationalist movement, the Polisario Front, was shown as a part of the North African state in an article published on NATO’s website on 14 December.
While the alliance has not made any official statements in regards to its stance on the Western Sahara territorial dispute, the article in question was released shortly after one of NATO’s key members, the US, recognised Morocco’s claims. Washington did so in exchange for Rabat establishing diplomatic ties with Israel, thus becoming the sixth Arab state to do so.
Previous maps on the NATO website showing north-western Africa depicted Morocco within the UN-recognised borders, with Western Sahara separated from it by a line, stressing its undetermined international status, even though Morocco de-facto exercises control over 80% of the land.
An interactive map on the official NATO webpage also draws a dashed line separating Western Sahara and Morocco’s UN-recognised borders.
The territorial dispute over Western Sahara has existed ever since Spain decolonised the land, with Morocco and the Polisario Front subsequently engaging in a dispute over it. The Polisario Front proclaimed the creation of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) with a government in exile located in Algeria.
SADR controls a sliver of territory in Western Sahara’s east and a small patch of land giving it access to the Atlantic Ocean. Several dozen states have officially recognised the claims of either Rabat or Sahrawi.
The remaining countries, as well as the UN, urge the sides to the conflict to work out a peaceful and mutual solution to the dispute, and refuse to take sides in it.