On April 21 at the United Nations Cuba and Morocco signed a memorandum of understanding that stated, “Guided by the mutual will to develop friendly relations, the two governments agreed to reestablish ties as well as political, economic and cultural cooperation.” They also expressed their willingness to develop ties of friendship and co-operation in the political, economic and cultural spheres, among others. Below is a photograph of the two countries’ flags.
The two countries thereby agreed to end 37 years of non-relations. In 1980 Morocco severed such ties because Cuba had extended diplomatic recognition to the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) in Morocco’s Western Sahara region. There also had been another period of non-recognition (October 31, 1963 through January 13, 1964) after Cuba had supported Algeria during its Sands War with Morocco in the Western Sahara.
In an article about this recent re-establishment of diplomatic relations, Granma, the official newspaper of the Communist Party of Cuba, stated that the “Cuban government maintains its stanch position in support of the Sahrawi people’s right to self-determination and will continue to offer cooperation in the fields of health and education” while expressing “gratitude to the Sahrawi people for their unbreakable solidarity toward the Cuban Revolution and its work.” These thoughts were echoed by a SADR official’s thanking “Cuba, the African Union and other countries ‘for defending the peoples’ right to self-determination, independence and decolonization, as well as for their loyalty to the guiding principles of international policy.’”
The Granma article also stated that the “reestablishment of diplomatic relations demonstrates Cuba’s willingness to, without forgetting history, develop bilateral ties on the basis of the unwavering principles of its foreign policy and firm vocation to build bridges between peoples and nations.” (Emphasis added.) Nor did the article forget that “Cuba values and appreciates Morocco’s support in the United Nations since 2006 voting in favor of the island’s resolution calling for an end to the economic, commercial and financial blockade [embargo] imposed by the United States.”
Only one week after the Cuba-Morocco announcement, the U.N. Security Council unanimously passed a resolution calling for new negotiations to end the conflict in the Western Sahara. The U.N. has been involved in this conflict since at least 1991 when it brokered a cease-fire and established a peacekeeping mission to monitor and help prepare a referendum on the territory’s future which has never taken place. This will be discussed in a future post.
 Morocco, Cuba re-establish Diplomatic Relations, Morocco World News (April 21, 2017); Lamzouwaq, Morocco-Cuba: 37 Years of Cold Hostility, Morocco World News (Apr. 25, 2017); Akwei, Morocco and Cuba have restored 37-year-old broken diplomatic ties, Africa News (April 22, 2017); Borrero, Cuba and Morocco looking to the future without forgetting the past, Granma (April 26, 2017).
 Assoc. Press, UN Council Backs New Effort to End Western Sahara Conflict, N.Y. Times (April 28, 2017).
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Cuba Reaffirms Support of Polisario
Cuba President Raúl Castro on May 26 met in Havana with Brahim Ghali, leader of the Polisario Front and President of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR).
Castro “reaffirmed that the issue of Western Sahara requires an effort to implement the relevant United Nations resolutions” for renewed negotiations and called for “the self-determination of the Saharawi people and the exercise of their legitimate right to live in peace in their territory.” Ghali, for his part, “thanked Cuba’s support for the just struggle of the Saharawi people.”
Raúl Castro ratifies his support for the Saharawi leader despite the re-establishment of relations with Morocco, Diario de Cuba (May 27, 2017) http://www.diariodecuba.com/cuba/1495877200_31442.html
Raúl recibe a president de la Repûblica Saharaui, CubaDebate (May 26, 2017) http://www.cubadebate.cu/noticias/2017/05/26/raul-recibe-a-presidente-de-la-republica-saharaui/#.WSlprcaZPj0