President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi has arrived to Equatorial Guinea’s capital of Malabo early on Wednesday to participate in the fourth Arab-African two-day summit, starting Wednesday.
In his opening speech, Al-Sisi said that Egypt puts the peace and security of the Arab world and African continent on the top of its foreign policy priorities. He added that Egypt will further work on enhancing economic cooperation between the Arab world and Africa.
Tension has swept over the preparations of the Arab-African Summit, as the delegation of Morocco withdrew on Tuesday due to the participation of an independent delegation from Western Sahara. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates followed the footsteps of Morocco and withdrew from participating in solidarity with Morocco. Other countries reportedly followed and withdrew from the summit, including Qatar, Jordan, and Bahrain.
The dispute between Morocco and the Western Sahara, located south of Morocco, started after the country’s independence from French occupation in 1956. In 1975, Morocco demanded that Spanish forces withdraw from the Western Sahara. The Spanish occupation ended in 1976.
Morocco and Mauritania disputed over which country will take over the sovereignty of the Western Sahara, agreeing that Morocco will take over northern Western Sahara and Mauritania will take over the southern part.
However, turmoil swept over Mauritania after which it dropped its authority over southern Western Sahara. By then, the Polisario front was established—a movement calling for the independence of Western Sahara from Morocco. Morocco rejected the independence and suggested an independent ruling for Western Sahara, but under the sovereignty of Morocco. The armed Polisario movement refused Morocco’s suggestion. Algeria defends the Polisario movement, which led to ongoing tension with Morocco.
All parties have agreed on a public referendum whereby they will decide on the political fate of Western Sahara; however, the referendum date has not been fixed yet.
The political and economic challenges that are currently facing the region are at the top of the agenda of the summit. The third summit was held in Kuwait in 2013.
Al-Sisi concluded his three-day visit to Portugal late Tuesday after he met with his Portuguese counterpart, prime minister, and several officials and investors, aiming to enhance bilateral relations between the two countries.